Italian president calls for shared EU asylum policy

2015-09-05 17:07

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Cernobbio - Italian President Sergio Mattarella called on Saturday for shared asylum rules in the European Union, saying thousands of migrants approaching Europe should not be seen as enemies.

Speaking via video link to a conference in northern Italy, Mattarella said he was hopeful the bloc was finally on the road to common rules, after Germany and France joined Italy last week in urging the EU to take a more centrally coordinated approach.

"The choice is not between surrendering to an invasion and the supposed defence of 'Fortress Europe'," said Mattarella, whose role is largely ceremonial but takes on important powers in times of political instability.

Mattarella said the Dublin Regulation, which requires people seeking refuge in Europe to do so in the first country where they set foot, should be replaced with shared, updated rules in order to spread the burden more fairly.

"The choice is between a Europe that decides its own destiny and a Europe that doesn't know how to manage events," he said.

Italy, whose southern island of Lampedusa is about 113km from Tunisia in North Africa from where many migrants come, has long called for more support in handling migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

Record numbers of migrants also arriving in Greece and through the Balkans have prompted other countries to join the call to reassess how Europe deals with them.

"The world is on the move ... millions of women, men, children, a defenceless army marching in search of safety," Mattarella said. "Are those people fleeing violence and death our enemies? Or should we see our enemy in wars and international terrorism?"

Thousands of exhausted migrants streamed into Austria on Saturday, bussed to the border by a Hungarian government that gave up trying to stop them with Europe's asylum system buckling.

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