The leaders of Germany and France, the two biggest powers in the European Union, on Wednesday pledged to assist Italy tackle mass inflow of boat migrants from North Africa.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said that 84 per cent of more than 100,000 asylum seekers, who crossed the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year, arrived in Italy.
“We are and we want to be supportive towards Italy,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a three-way meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Merkel, who lauded the “fantastic’’ reception the Italians gave to migrants arriving its shores, called for collective action by EU member states against human traffickers.
She also stressed the need for the EU to ensure stability in Libya and to foster economic growth in the migrants’ countries of origin.
On his part, Macron, who issued a similar message, however, made a distinction between people with legitimate claims for asylum, such as war refugees from Syria, and so-called economic migrants.
“While France will do more to welcome refugees, we cannot take in men and women who try to come to our countries for economic reasons,” Macron said.
Gentiloni, Merkel and Macron met in the north-eastern Italian city of Trieste ahead of a summit with countries of the Western Balkans.
The summit will focus on regional cooperation and the aspirations of states in Western Balkans to join the EU.
The call by the Italian government on EU member states to assist it in sharing the burden of migrants arriving its shores had grown strident in recent times.
On Tuesday, EU border agency Frontex, said that Italy is facing extraordinary pressure and needed additional support from the EU and Frontex.”