Germany wants to stop migrant sever reaching Europe’s Mediterranean coast by picking them up at sea and returning them to Africa.
In what would be a huge shift for a country with one of the most generous a sylum policies, the German Interior Ministry says the European Union should adopt an Australian-style system under which migrants intercepted at sea are sent for processing at camps in third countries.
“The elimination of the prospect of reaching the European coast could convince migrants to avoid embarking on the life-threatening and costly journey in the first place” the Weltam Sonntag newspaper reported yesterday, quoting a ministry spokeswoman.
The ministry’s proposal calls for migrants picked up in the Mediterranean most of whom set off from conflict- torn Libya –to be sent to Tunisia, Egypt or other north African states to apply for asylum from there.
If their asylum applications are accepted, the migrants could then be transported to Europe.
The ministry is headed by Thomas de Maiziere, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
Merkel has been under fire for her open-door refugee policy, with her party losing votes to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party in recent regional elections.
The ministry said there were no concrete plans or discussions at EU level about the proposal at this stage, but opposition politicians condemned the plan.
Left Party leader Bernd Riexinger said it would be “a humanitarian scandal, the paper reported.
More than 2 200 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean in a single day on Saturday and 10bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard said.
The International Organisation for Migration said last week that 159 496 people had reached Italy by sea this year and 4 220 died trying a sharp increase from 3 777 in the whole of 2015.