German president urges fair migrant distribution on Italy trip

AFP - [email protected]
German president urges fair migrant distribution on Italy trip
German President Frank Walter Steinmeier in Italy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Sicily Wednesday, calling for a fair distribution of migrants who arrive in Europe after a rise in boat arrivals in southern Italy.


Steinmeier, who is being accompanied by Italian President Sergio Mattarella during the two-day visit, said both Germany and Italy were "at their limits".

"We need a fair distribution in Europe and stronger controls and surveillance at our external borders," he told Italy's Corriere della Sera daily in an interview ahead of his trip.

The focus of the trip was the awarding of a joint prize by the two presidents aimed at enhancing bilateral ties, but will also include a private visit Thursday to a migrant charity.

Over 130,000 people have landed on Italian shores since the start of this year, according to the interior ministry, up from some 68,200 in the same period last year.

Some 8,500 migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa last week in just three days, as the number of people crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa rose.

Germany is also dealing with "heavy immigration", Steinmeier said, calling for "humane and sustainable European solutions".

"We have to make every effort to make the loads sustainable and lower the number of arrivals," he added.

Berlin revealed last week it was stopping accepting migrants living in Italy under a European solidarity plan. 

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The voluntary scheme is aimed at easing pressure on EU border nations that are often the first port of call for migrants.

Germany said it could resume taking in migrants if Italy resumed its obligations to take back refugees.

Under the EU's Dublin procedure, irregular migrants should be registered in the EU country they first enter. Should they head to another nation in the bloc, they can be returned to their EU first port of call.


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