Immigration has raced up the European agenda following Silvio Berlusconi’s outburst at Brussels’ observations about Italy’s treatment of boat people arriving on its shores.
His complaint that Italy, one of the easiest routes into Europe, was being left in the lurch to deal with the problem appears to have been heard, even if the tone of the complaint has angered many. “In essence Mr. Berlusconi is right. For the last 2 years we have been saying the whole EU has to look after these poor people expelled from Libya or wherever and who die at sea, and right now only Italy and Malta do. The EU hasn’t done what it should,” said European People’s Party leader Joseph Daul. European Socialists leader Poul Nyrup Rasmussen agrees: “We need a common immigration and asylum policy in Europe, and this must be combined with respecting fundamental human rights.” The result is that the European Commission has presented a draft law that will increase the total number of immigrants and refugees into the EU. Immigration Commissioner Jacques Barrot says all member states will be required to take some, thus spreading the burden, although this will be on a voluntary basis, and will also require approval from all 27 members. A pilot project is currently seeking to relocate refugees in Malta around the EU.