European Union refugee talks end with no solutions

The plan argues that existing European asylum rules are obsolete.

Salvini's tough talk came on the eve of an informal mini-summit of 16 leaders in Brussels to address the thorny issue of how the European Union can tackle the renewed influx of migrants and refugees seeking a new life in Europe.

One of the key accomplishments of the EU is the Schengen free travel zone and some fear that closing internal borders between EU nations to keep migrants out would undermine that cornerstone of EU co-operation.

The UN's refugee agency forecasts that about 80,000 people will arrive in Europe by sea in 2018 if current trends continue.

The political stakes are indeed high across the 28-member bloc where anti-migrant sentiment has catapulted populists to power in Italy, Austria and Hungary, and helped shape the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Plans to set up migrant reception centers in Albania are also under discussion.

"The European Council will not yet provide an overall solution to the migration problem", Merkel said conceding a lack of consensus among EU members. He mentioned Libya - the main jumping off point for countries bound for Europe - other African countries and the Balkans.

But on 24 June in Brussels will be held a mini-summit on migration, which is convened by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

Salvini said that France would not transform Italy - which has taken in almost 700,000 migrants since 2013 - "into Europe's refugee camp".

The prime ministers of Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg also backed the idea of outsourcing the effort to tame migration, although they emphasised the need to respect global law.

The IOM and UNHCR did not immediately reply to request for comment.

The emergency meeting will be an opportunity for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to find possible solutions as she faces a domestic crisis, which is posing an existential threat to her three-months-old coalition government.

With an agreement appearing elusive, Germany says it is now pushing for "bilateral, trilateral and multilateral" deals. France's Macron also supported the idea of members acting in smaller groups.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, left, with French President Emmanuel Macron. laid out a 10-point plan to reform European Union migration policies. Currently, migrants are processed in the state in which they arrive-something that has recently placed a lopsided burden on countries like Italy, where the migrant crisis has not abated as much as it has elsewhere.

"I think it was better than expected, there was some progress that has been achieved", Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, echoing a similar assessment by his Spanish counterpart, with both describing frank exchanges in the afternoon meeting.

His appeal came as migration tensions surged on the Mediterranean itself.

The prime minister added that all the leaders who met in Brussels agreed that the traffic of boats across the Mediterranean needed to be halted.

Infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli on Thursday said that two rescue migrant ships - Lifeline and Seefuchs of the German NGO Mission Lifeline - would be seized and directed to Italian ports for investigation "into their legal status". Proactiva Open Arms tweeted on Sunday that Italy is seeking to have the Libyan coast guard force them back to North Africa.

German charity Mission Lifeline, whose rescue ship with nearly 240 African migrants aboard has been denied entry by Italy, Sunday fired back at Rome's far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini.

If that fails, he has vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at an emergency European Union leaders summit on immigration, in Brussels, Belgium June 24, 2018.

Like everything to do with migrants in Europe lately, even this meeting is proving controversial.

  • Joey Payne