The European Commission has offered to pay countries €6,000 (£5,346) per person to host migrants in secure centres in their territory, as part of a plan to break the deadlock in Brussels over migration policy.
The EU’s executive said on Tuesday it would shoulder the cost of taking in the people crossing the Mediterranean on boats from the bloc’s common budget, as well as cover the cost of specialist personnel to process them.
The proposal is the latest in a string of policies designed to resolve the issue, which has leapt up the political agenda in recent months after the election of far-right parties in countries such as Italy and Austria – despite a sharp fall in the number of people trying to travel to Europe.
Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini has previously closed Italy’s ports to the boats, but the country’s government softened its line this week, saying it would temporarily lift the embargo over August while the bloc worked out a new policy.
At the last European Council summit in Brussels at the end of June, EU national leaders agreed on the need to set up secure centres to process asylum claims, as well as agreeing a raft of hardline stances on migrants – such as condemning NGO-operated rescue boats operating off the Libyan coast.
But there was little detail agreed regarding what form the processing centres should take, and some countries, including France, Germany and Italy said they had no intention of hosting them.
Leaders also in principle agreed another proposal for “disembarkation platforms” based in North Africa where EU officials could process asylum claims outside EU territory – but again, little detail was given.
Representatives from EU countries are expected to discuss the proposal for new payments at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. Countries such as Spain, France and Malta may welcome the plan as they have been taking in boats rejected by Italy’s government.
Italy’s government immediately moved to reject participation in the plan, however. Mr Salvini, the interior minister said: “If they want to give money to someone else let them do so. Italy doesn’t need charity.”
The current multi-year EU budget is being negotiated by member states, and the commission has already proposed to set aside billions for a contingency fund to deal with unforeseen costs related to migration.
Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Now more than ever we need common, European solutions on migration. We are ready to support member states and third countries in better cooperating on disembarkation of those rescued at sea.
“But for this to work immediately on the ground, we need to be united – not just now, but also in the long run. We need to work towards sustainable solutions.”
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