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News > World

Italy and Germany Announce Anti-Refugee Alliance

  • Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Navy vessel Sfinge in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, southern Italy, Aug. 31, 2016.

    Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Navy vessel Sfinge in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, southern Italy, Aug. 31, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 August 2016

Italian and German leaders agreed in a news conference that asylum seekers must be sent back to their origin countries if they have no right to stay.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Wednesday to step up efforts to send refugees with no right to asylum in Europe back to their homelands.

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"All of us in Europe must work for the repatriation of those who do not have rights (to legally stay)," Renzi said after a meeting with Merkel in the Italian town that's home to the Ferrari sports car empire. "It is unthinkable that we can accommodate everyone."

In comments pointing to a hardening of attitudes about how to resolve the refugee crisis reshaping politics across Europe, Merkel added: "Not everyone can stay, and Italy has the same problem, so we have a common agenda. Those who do not have the right to stay have to be repatriated."

The German leader was speaking a year to the day after she won praise and criticism in equal measure for signalling an open door policy on refugees by declaring "we can do this," referring to people fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Deporting asylum seekers in Europe would affect mostly those from countries that European countries do not recognize as war zones such as Afghanistan.

More than 10 percent of the entire Afghan population have been displaced following the U.S. invasion in 2001. Before the war in Syria started, Afghans were the biggest group of refugees worldwide.

However, Afghans are not recognized as refugees by Europe, which refers to them instead as “economic migrants,” allowing members of the European Union to deny their requests for asylum—despite the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan troops continue to fight the Taliban and, increasingly, the Islamic State group.

The news comes days after Italy rescued more than 6,500 refugees in 40 separate locations in the Mediterranean. The coast guard said most of the refugees were from African countries.

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Meanwhile, Merkel pointed Wednesday to the controversial EU-Turkey deal signed in March aimed at stemming the flow of migrants to Europe as an example of how cooperation could help "halt illegal migration".

However, this deal seems to have caused more damage than good and in fact increased the number of fatalities, as it pushed many to choose the riskier and more expensive trek through the Mediterranean instead of the shorter Aegean connection to Greece from Turkey.

With more than four months until the end of the year, an estimated 2,726 men, women and children have died this year trying to make the journey. The U.N. says more than 270,000 people have arrived in Europe through Italy and Greece this year alone.

The numbers indicate arrivals this year are destined to be significantly lower than the previous year, when more than a million people showed up on Europe’s shores, but the loss of life ratio is set to be even higher than 2015 as this year's toll is just 1,000 shy of 2015’s total.

Merkel, however, argued that more financial deal with countries of origins are the solution to the crisis instead of pushing for overhauling the Western discourse in those conflict regions.

"It is important that we make deals with the countries of origin," Merkel said, giving the example of the deal struck between Italy, France and Germany and Mali and Niger to promote economic growth in the sub-Saharan countries.

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