EU mulls controversial plan to send migrants to Africa for screening

By Susan McFarland
EU mulls controversial plan to send migrants to Africa for screening
A ship loaded with migrants begins to topple in the Mediterranean off Italy on May 25, 2016. The European Union began a two-day summit Thursday to discuss a new plan to send migrants for screening at facilities, possibly in Africa, before they are allowed to enter certain countries. Photo courtesy Marina Militare Italiana

June 28 (UPI) -- Europe's migration crisis will take center stage in Belgium Thursday as the European Union begins a two-day summit that will address a new screening plan.

EU leaders are expected to discuss the use of disembarkation platforms in Niger, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt to screen migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.


"Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys," the proposal said.

Human rights groups, North African countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have condemned the proposal, which proposes to establish offshore processing centers to screen refugees before allowing entry.

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"Africa has enough problems to deal with, and there's a high risk asylum seekers could be stuck in transit countries," United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

Libyan Foreign Minister Ahmed Maiteeq said this week his country "categorically refuses" to host the facilities.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, humanitarian affairs adviser at Doctors Without Borders, said the idea amounts to "passing the buck."

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"In all the scenarios, people are seen as commodities," Sahraoui told Al Jazeera. "We no longer see people as having rights, but some goods that are being passed around by countries in exchange for money or in exchange for political recognition."


Italy supports the idea, which could provide enough of a win for the Rome government to accept a German demand linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel was given an ultimatum by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer earlier this month to secure an asylum policy deal with European allies, or risk division of her coalition.

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EU leaders also are expected to agree on a plan to stop asylum seekers registered in one EU country from applying in another -- a restriction that could accelerate the return of migrants from Germany to Italy, where they first arrived seeking asylum.

Rome currently refuses to accept the return of asylum seekers from Germany because it says too many new migrants are landing on Italian shores.

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