The Latest: 4 Eastern Europe nations to skip migrant meeting
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the influx of migrants in Europe (all times local):
Leaders from four countries in Eastern Europe will not be attending a weekend emergency meeting about migration in Brussels.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Thursday that all four members of the Visegrad Group — also including Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic — would skip the talks.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that since his country opposes a plan to redistribute asylum-seekers among the European Union countries, “we do not intend to take part in this process.”
Referring to the hastily arranged meeting and to the crisis over migration policies within Germany’s government coalition, the fervently anti-migrant Orban said: “We understand that countries have domestic political difficulties, but this can’t result in pan-European confusion.”
Italy’s hard-line interior minister has said he will not allow a Dutch-flagged boat that rescued some 200 migrants to land in Italy.
Matteo Salvini said Thursday the ship Lifeline rescued 224 migrants in Libyan waters, after the Italian coast guard had told the ship to defer to the Libyan coast guard. Salvini said that he had contacted the Dutch ambassador about the ship’s activities, adding “they will only see Italy on the map.”
The comments came after Italy’s government recently refused to allow the Aqurius, another rescue ship carrying more than 600 migrants, to land at Italian ports.
Lifeline, operated by a German aid group, said it conducted the rescue in international waters, and asked for a safe port but was not told where they could land. It added: “We are sailing northward.”
Aquarius brought the migrants to Spain after Italy and Malta refused to receive them.
The U.N.’s human rights chief says that Hungary’s new legislation threatening to jail people helping refugees and asylum-seekers is “shameful and blatantly xenophobic.”
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on Thursday called the decision by Hungarian lawmakers “an attack on fundamental human rights and freedoms in Hungary.”
The laws passed Wednesday, including a constitutional amendment, are meant to bolster the anti-migration policies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, re-elected in April to a fourth term.
Zeid, a Jordanian price who is leaving his post in August and has had several clashes with Hungarian officials over migration, said the new rules reflect the Hungarian government’s “assault on civic space, threatening those who work on behalf of the most vulnerable.”
Hungary’s prime minister says a group of countries in eastern Europe supports the idea of setting up screening centers “hotspots” outside the European Union where asylum-seekers can present their requests for protection.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after a meeting on Thursday of the so-called Visegrad Group — made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — that the countries continue to reject any EU quota plans for dispersing asylum-seekers throughout Europe.
Hungary has long been a proponent of establishing so-called “hotspots” in Africa where people hoping to emigrate to Europe can be pre-screened. The new Italian government endorsed the idea this week.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attending the Visegrad Group meeting in Budapest as a guest. He says his government, which takes over the rotating, six-month EU presidency on July 1, would strive for a “protective Europe” which can defend the continent’s welfare and prosperity.
The European Commission says it’s scrutinizing new laws passed in Hungary that ban homelessness and allow jail sentences for people convicted of aiding asylum-seekers.
Spokesman Christian Wigand said Thursday that the European Union’s executive arm “will take the necessary steps” based on its analysis and an assessment by Europe’s constitutional watchdog.
Wigand said “it is not without concern that we are following these developments and these new proposals,” adding: “we should not turn our back on the values and principles on which Europe is built.”
If Hungary’s move is deemed to contravene EU laws, the Commission could take legal action against Hungary similar to steps it is taking against Poland over concerns about the judiciary there. It could result in Hungary losing EU voting rights.
The European Union’s top migration official says the EU wants to screen migrants in centers in northern Africa to see whether they are eligible for asylum and prevent people trying to enter Europe by boat.
Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Thursday that the bloc wants to open “regional disembarkation platforms” in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.
Avramopoulos said “we would like significantly to intensify our cooperation with these countries.” He said that in return they would receive “increased financial and material support.”
None of the countries has yet agreed to take part.
The U.N. refugee agency says that around 40,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year, landing mainly in Italy, Greece and Spain.