EU Mulls Migrant ‘Processing Centres’ in Balkans
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has asked EU interior ministers to consider ways to set up facilities in western Balkans states to screen some of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers who enter Greece and head north, mostly to Germany, Reuters reported.
The proposal, unveiled by Asselborn after a meting of EU interior ministers in Brussels on Monday, indicates the bloc’s plan to register asylum seekers flowing into Europe via Turkey in so-called ‘hotspots’ in Italy and Greece has done little to tame the migrant influx not seen in Europe since WWII.
More than 200,000 people arrived in Greece last month- more than in whole of 2014 - and most of them headed north on foot or by public transport via Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia to western Europe.
Meanwhile, just 120 asylum seekers have been relocated to other EU member states out of a target of 160,000 under a distribution quota system supposed to spread migrants from Italy and Greece around the Union.
The proposal for Balkan "processing centres" was put forward out of concern that migrants might be left stranded in both EU and non-EU Balkan states as the winter sets in and richer EU member states like Sweden and Germany warn that their capacity to accept asylum seekers may soon be exhausted, Reuters said.
"The European Union must do everything to avoid a catastrophe as winter closes in. We cannot let people die from the cold in the Balkans," said Asselborn, who is Luxembourg's minister for migration.
He added that asylum seekers would be fingerprinted and allowed to opt to enter the EU's relocation scheme. People not eligible for protection would be returned to their country of origin.
Monday’s meeting of EU interior ministers chaired by Asselborn came ahead of a special EU-Africa summit in Malta on Wednesday which will discuss ways to reduce the flow of asylum seekers via Libya, a key migrant route after Turkey and the Balkans.
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