EU Emergency Council convened over Mediterranean refugee problems

The European Union has called an emergency meeting of interior ministers to discuss migration.

There is growing concern on the bloc following a recent diplomatic row between France and Italy over the Ocean Viking ship, as well as the arrival of 450 migrants on the Greek island of Crete.

The Cypriot interior minister was one of many politicians to voice his concerns.

“We see traffickers using new methods and means. Now they use big private boats and merchant ships to transport migrants,” said Nicos Nouris.

“We think this is a dangerous tactic and we are talking about a large number of people. To be honest, I don’t know how the Mediterranean countries will deal with this new threat,” he said.

A diplomatic row erupted earlier this month when Italy forced France to accept a humanitarian rescue ship, the Ocean Viking, with 234 migrants on board.

France retaliated by suspending its participation in an EU solidarity pact to take in 3,000 people who arrived in Italy this year and dispatching officials to strengthen its southern border crossings and bar migrants from entering.

EU home affairs ministers will hold emergency talks on Friday to find a lasting solution.

On the agenda is a proposal to change the asylum application process so that a refugee applies to the embassy of the country in which he or she wishes to live.

Southern Mediterranean countries also want member states to start taking in more refugees.

Member states have so far offered to take in fewer than 2,000 out of the 160,000 migrants who arrive on European shores each year.

For years, the member countries have been arguing about who should take responsibility for those who have arrived and whether partner countries should be obliged to provide assistance.

Unable to come to an agreement, the nations tried to outsource the problem by forging deals with North African countries like Libya.

EU countries and the Commission have also rejected any attempts to set up a concerted search and rescue mission to solve the problem, arguing that such a system would only attract more people.

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