Brussels divided as 19 EU member states lead charge for offshore processing of asylum seekers

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala revealed more than two-thirds of EU member states are drafting a letter to the European Commission calling for offshore migrant processing as a "real solution" to the ongoing crisis

FILE - Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil, seen crossing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla, Spain, on June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Javier Bernardo, File)
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

A group of 19 disgruntled EU member states who believe the European Union must “go beyond” the proposed migration pact and find a “real solution” to the migrant crisis are drafting a letter to the European Commission calling for the offshore processing of illegal migrants.

The mobilization of more than two-thirds of member states was confirmed during a press conference between Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni, in Rome on Monday.

“We need to start solving the problem before we have to deal with it in the countries of the union. We therefore want to focus more on cooperation with safe third countries, enter into strategic partnerships with states from which or through which migrants come to us, or focus on creating return centers,” Fiala told journalists.

“An example of this partnership is Italy’s cooperation with Albania. I think this is a model to try. It could be one of the ways to deal with illegal migration,” he added.

The Albania scheme initiated by Meloni’s government was approved by Tirana in February. It will see up to 36,000 asylum seekers who arrive on Italian soil transferred to Italian-run asylum camps in Albania where they will be held while their applications are processed.

Similar schemes have also been proposed by Denmark and the U.K., both of which have signed agreements with the African nation of Rwanda for offshore processing of migrants who arrive illegally in the respective countries.

Unlike Italy’s Albania deal, however, those who are granted asylum through Britain’s Rwanda scheme will remain in Africa and be provided with housing and support. They will not be transferred back to Britain.

The call is likely to drive a wedge through the European Union after French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson both criticized Britain’s Rwanda scheme last month after U.K. lawmakers passed legislation to circumvent the concerns of the country’s Supreme Court.

“This model that some people want to put in place, which means that you go and look for a third country, for example in Africa, and send our immigrants there. This is a betrayal of our values and will lead us down the path of new dependencies on third countries,” Macron said.

Johansson was also unequivocal. “Should we send away people that are on EU territory applying for asylum to a third country? My answer is no. We’re not open to that,” she told journalists in March.

Speaking on Monday, however, Fiala endorsed such a scheme, insisting that EU member states must make “work on externalization” of asylum processing a “priority” in order to “prevent the flow rather than having to manage it.”

A recent EU-wide survey conducted by BVA Xsight revealed Czech respondents were some of the most disillusioned over Brussels’ immigration policy to date.

Just 39 percent — the fewest across the bloc — agreed that the migrant quotas proposed in the EU migration pact were necessary, while just 17 percent were of the opinion that Europe “needs immigration today.”

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