Italy presents overhaul plan at mini-summit — European Union migrant crisis

Italy doubles down on anti-migrant stance ahead of EU summit

Failure to agree on how to deal with the challenge of migration threatens the EU's border-free travel area, one of the biggest accomplishments in the bloc's 60-year history. Anti-migrant parties, and governments in Hungary and Italy, have been fomenting public fears of foreigners and have won support doing so.

Since Mediterranean arrivals spiked in 2015, when more than a million refugees and migrants reached the bloc, European Union leaders have been at odds over how to handle them, the feud weakening their unity and undermining Europe's free travel area.

Italy's government wants to deport half a million undocumented migrants, many of whom are housed in squalid reception centres.

It means, among other measures, setting up global protection centres in African transit countries to assess asylum applications.

Now, as Merkel heads into a crucial European Union summit starting Thursday, she must fight for solutions to the flashpoint issue to resolve a deep political crisis threatening her at home.

Merkel's worst crisis yet stems from her mid-2015 decision to keep open German borders to a mass influx of mostly Muslim asylum seekers fleeing war and misery in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

She said: "Italy wants to leave the migrants in the hands of Libya, where they torture, rape and enslave" migrants.

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The post said: "It's time for Europe to find itself again in the principles that everyone preaches, but few sincerely practice", saying what is at stake is "the future of Europe as a political community and its values".

The EU should offer the second tranche of 3 billion euros to Turkey under the cash-for-repatriation deal, and continue to provide support to the Lybian coast guard, Merkel stressed.

The talks involving 16 of the bloc's 28 leaders aim to mend rifts over burden sharing but also to shore up German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pressed by her own government to tighten her liberal approach to asylum.

Merkel instead is pushing for bilateral and trilateral deals to cope with short-term migration and refugee pressures. She said the hope is to see if "we can reach bi-, tri- or even multinational agreements to better solve certain problems".

Merkel also got Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to attend the mini-summit by telling him pre-written conclusions had been withdrawn, Italian officials said.

Taking part in the meeting along with Germany and France were countries such as Italy and Greece, where immigrants and refugees first arrive from Africa and the Middle East.

"You can't have countries that massively benefit from the solidarity of the European Union and that massively voice their national selfishness when it comes to migrant issues", he told a press conference in Paris alongside new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The centers would be created in accordance with guidelines from the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, Macron said.

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His appeal came as migration tensions surged on the Mediterranean itself.

The prime minister added that all the leaders who met in Brussels agreed that the traffic of boats across the Mediterranean needed to be halted.

After turning away the Aquarius, which later docked in Spain, Rome vowed Saturday to block the Lifeline, a German charity vessel with more than 230 people aboard.

But Malta also warned it would launch an investigation and possibly take action against the Lifeline once it entered Maltese waters.

As with everything linked to migration in Europe, even the meeting in Brussels has not pleased everybody.

Although no formal agreements were reached Sunday, ahead of a full summit on Thursday, the toughened attitudes toward migrants were on stark display.

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