EU Commissioner for migration and home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos | Credit: ANSA
EU Commissioner for migration and home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos | Credit: ANSA

EU Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told ANSA in an interview that an EU summit scheduled on September 20 will be key to change the Sophia mission aimed at neutralizing illegal migrant trafficking routes in the Mediterranean.

An EU summit on September 20 could mark a turning point in the debate on the European Sophia migrant search-and-rescue mission, EU Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told ANSA in an interview. 


''If representatives of all States will follow up on the constructive attitude shown at an informal foreign affairs meeting'' held in Vienna at the end of August ''and to the good work started, things will go in a better way'', he said. The commissioner was referring to changes requested by Italy, the only country where all migrants rescued by the ships of the EU mission are currently offloaded. 

Salvini-Orban alliance a 'contradiction' 

The Greek politician said he did not have a good opinion of a possible coalition between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for European Parliament elections scheduled in May. ''There is no great convergence of interests between these two politicians - he observed - both are painted as EU critics but, while the European Commission and many member States have offered concrete support to Italy, Hungary so far has shown no solidarity''.

Avramopoulos warned against populist and nationalist agendas. ''Some governments tell their voters that it is necessary to close borders or that the only way to resolve migratory pressure is through national measures: but in doing so, they are not being honest. Migrations are a phenomenon of our century and we need to manage them together. No country can make it on its own''. 

'Increase repatriations' from Italy 

Avramopoulos then took a step toward Salvini, who has made the repatriation of 600,000 migrants a key point of his electoral campaign. ''I agree with Salvini on the need to increase the repatriation of those who don't have the right to remain. I understand that the country was under huge pressure but it needs to do more: in 2018 there were only 4,000. There are delays, which I have reported several times over the years. Immediate actions are necessary. We are ready to help. The measures that we will present next week go in this direction'', he said, referring to the transformation of EU border agency Frontex into an effective European police corps with 10,000 units ready to intervene, money and a strong mandate on repatriations.

The commissioner however noted that, ''in order to do better on repatriations, Italy needs to increase its detention capacity'', adding that its current 500 places ''are not enough''. ''We know the situation in the country, its weaknesses and where it did not accomplish what it should have, but we are ready to give our support. You will see, there will be a quick improvement''.
 

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