BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is ready to take in a quarter of migrants who reach Italy by sea, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in remarks published on Friday, signalling a goodwill gesture to a southern neighbour ahead of EU talks on immigration later this month.
European Union countries want to reach a temporary agreement on sharing out the care for migrants who reach the bloc’s shores when interior ministers meet in Malta on Sept. 23.
EU states have been at odds on the issue since a surge in 2015 in arrivals of people fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
“If all that has been agreed stands, we would be able to take in 25% of people rescued at sea and who end up in Italy,” Seehofer told the Sueddeutsche newspaper. “This will not overwhelm our migration policy.”
Italy and Greece have long complained about the lack of an EU solution to immigrant arrivals. EU efforts to establish a quota system have been unsuccessful, meeting stiff resistance from eastern states.
An increase in migrant arrivals by sea over the summer months had strained relations between the EU states and fellow member Italy, whose former far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini closed Italy’s ports to boats rescuing the new arrivals in the Mediterranean.
“I have always said that our immigration policy is humane,” Seehofer added. “We will let no one drown.”
A new Italian government sworn in last week has promised to change tack on boat rescues. On Thursday Italy said it had done a deal with EU countries to share out migrants aboard a charity ship at sea in the Mediterranean.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Frances Kerry)