Brussels will offer EU governments €6,000 for every migrant they take in from boats stranded in the Mediterranean, in plans designed to help ease pressure on Italy’s new anti-immigration government.
The European Commission will publish proposals on Tuesday on how to stem the flow of migrants coming into Europe. These include helping to foot the bill for creating “controlled centres” for member states which agree to set them up on their territory.
The Commission will also pay governments for up to 500 migrants that they rescue from each boat stranded at sea, said an official briefed on the talks.
The financial incentives will be introduced after migrant rescue boats were barred from docking in Italy by Rome’s new populist government. Brussels will offer countries that agree to take some of the rescued people €6,000 per migrant, according to the plans.
Spain is likely to be the biggest beneficiary, having taken in more than 1,200 rescued migrants from stranded boats in the Mediterranean in the past week alone. France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Malta have also received smaller numbers from rescues in recent weeks.
By offering financial incentives to countries to share the burden, Brussels is hoping to persuade Rome’s government to do more to prevent failed asylum seekers who enter Italy from travelling on to other EU member states.
The cornerstone of this plan involves frontline migrant states setting up “controlled centres” on their territory to process asylum claims and to send back failed claimants to their country of origin.
The commission will say that it will provide any government that houses the centres the “full support of the EU and EU agencies”, including border guards and security officers paid for with money from the bloc’s common budget.
Despite EU leaders spending nine hours thrashing out an agreement to create controlled centres inside Europe last month, no government has said it is willing to establish one on its territory. Italy is most resistant to the idea.
To persuade governments to agree, Brussels will tell member states they can set up the centres on an “ad hoc” temporary basis and also decide for themselves whether they should be open or closed camps.
The commission will urge “pilot” centres to be launched “as soon as possible”. The plans are set to be discussed by EU28 ambassadors on Wednesday.
Instead of having asylum centres in the EU, rightwing European governments led by Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, want to fortify the bloc’s borders to prevent migrants from entering Europe.
Mr Salvini, who has the backing of Austria and of Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, is pushing plans to create “disembarkation platforms” outside Europe to process claims for migrants rescued at sea, most likely in north Africa.
Despite wide agreement in the EU28 to create the platforms, no non-EU country has yet indicated its interest.
The commission’s ideas will make clear that the platforms cannot be camps or sites with detention and will fully respect international rights law.
To stop the platforms from attracting migrants, Brussels will say that not all the people identified as needing international protection will be given the opportunity to resettle in Europe. This “pull factor” will also be reduced by establishing the platforms “as far away as possible from points of irregular departure”, said the official.
Willing non-EU countries will be provided with “support tailored to their specific political, security and socio-economic situation” in return for the platforms, added the official.
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