EU summit deal reached on migrant crisis

European Union leaders have struck a deal on migration, with the burden of resettling refugees shared more widely among member states. CNN's Nina Dos Santos reports.

Posted: Jun 29, 2018 9:58 PM
Updated: Jun 29, 2018 10:19 PM

European Union leaders have averted the collapse of a key summit with a deal struck on migration in the early hours of Friday which could see the burden of resettling refugees shared more widely among member states.

After marathon talks, EU leaders agreed -- but only on a voluntary basis -- to set up "controlled" migrant processing centers within Europe which would swiftly distinguish between genuine asylum seekers and "irregular migrants, who will be returned."

However, the deal was thin on detail about how this would work or which countries would take in asylum seekers.

The EU will also look into setting up migration centers in countries outside Europe, according to the European Council. These are likely to be in North African countries, with the aim of breaking the business model of human traffickers who ship migrants across the sea to Europe.

Hours after the deal was struck, a rubber boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast with 100 or more people feared dead, Libyan Navy spokesman Ayoub Qassim told CNN.

The UN migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told CNN that a rescue operation was ongoing but only 14 people had been saved. "The bodies of three children under the age of five have been retrieved. How many missing or dead total, we don't know for now," said the IOM's Libya spokeswoman Christine Petre.

The meeting of European leaders, intended to focus on Brexit, was dominated Thursday by the issue of how to deal with the arrival of boatloads of desperate migrants seeking safety or a better life in Europe.

Italy -- whose new government has closed ports to ships rescuing migrants undertaking the dangerous Mediterranean crossing from north Africa -- had threatened to block a deal if migration was not addressed, a diplomat told CNN on Thursday.

At around 5 a.m. Brussels time Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that leaders had agreed on a joint statement from the EU28 summit that included a settlement on migration.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the deal took "long negotiation, but from today Italy is no longer alone."

Read more: Full text of the EU migration deal

However, Italy's hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini reacted with caution Friday, saying that as a former Member of the European Parliament "I don't trust what's said in words, I only trust what's put on paper."

Speaking to Italian radio station Radio Capital, he called for more details on the principles, money and manpower involved, saying that in many supposedly international operations Italy had borne most of the cost.

Macron: 'European solution'

In a statement, the Council said it had agreed to adopt a "comprehensive approach to migration that combines more effective control of the EU's external borders, increased external action and the internal aspects, in line with our principles and values."

It added: "The European Council is determined to continue and reinforce this policy to prevent a return to the uncontrolled flows of 2015 and to further stem illegal migration on all existing and emerging routes."

The Council said more support would be provided to Italy and other Mediterranean countries, and "efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya or elsewhere should be further intensified."

It also stressed that despite a recent uptick in Mediterranean crossings, measures already taken meant the number of detected illegal border crossings into the EU had fallen by 95% from its peak in October 2015.

British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the agreement, saying it addressed many issues the UK had previously raised, and would "ensure that people aren't making these dangerous journeys ... in the hands of people smugglers."

French President Emmanuel Macron said that despite suggestions a deal would be "impossible," member states had succeeded in reaching a "European solution."

The leaders were meeting Friday for a second day, without May present, to discuss Brexit and reform of the eurozone.

Conclusions adopted by the Council on Brexit urged the UK government to step up its efforts on negotiating the withdrawal agreement and provide "further clarity as well as realistic and workable proposals" as regards its position on the United Kingdom's future relationship with with bloc.

The European Council also said leaders had agreed to extend sanctions on Russia for another six months over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Unanswered questions

Despite EU leaders' broad welcome for the migration deal, many questions remain unanswered.

The Council said it would work closely with the IOM and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, as well as relevant third countries to explore the proposal for "regional disembarkation platforms" where migrants would be assessed before they get close to setting off for Europe by sea.

However, it's not yet clear whether Libya and other north African nations are willing or capable of setting up such a system. Libyan deportation centers are rife with abuse, rights groups say, and a CNN undercover investigation last year revealed cases of migrants being sold at slave auctions.

In a statement, the IOM and UNHCR said they "stand ready to support a common approach, and call on all countries in the Mediterranean region to come together to implement a predictable and responsible disembarkation mechanism in a manner that prioritizes human rights and safety first."

The IOM also tweeted that the situation was "not a migration crisis, rather a humanitarian one," with more than 16,000 migrants dead or missing at sea since 2014.

The EU document, which often refers to shared or voluntary efforts, also does not explain on what basis refugees will be resettled across the bloc if they reach migrant processing centers on European soil, or how this will be done more swiftly than at present.

Some states, particularly in eastern Europe, have fiercely resisted mandatory quotas for EU nations to take in refugees.

Political pressure

In an impassioned speech ahead of the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said migration could be a "make or break" issue for the European Union.

"We cannot leave those countries where asylum seekers arrive to deal with (the problem) alone," she told the German Parliament in Berlin.

Merkel is under considerable pressure at home to reduce the number of asylum seekers Germany accepts and agree to other restrictions on immigration, or risk a collapse of her ruling coalition.

While the deal agreed in Brussels should be enough to get the Chancellor through her current political crisis, critics will want to see concrete progress.

Merkel became the accidental architect of European migration policy in 2015 when she decided to allow hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who had crossed the Balkans on foot into Germany.

In an interview with CNN this week, Salvini said "we need to revisit" the Dublin Regulation, which requires asylum seekers to be registered in the first European country they enter -- regardless of whether they entered legally or otherwise.

The Dublin rules have put a huge amount of pressure on southern and eastern European nations, where the vast majority of refugees fleeing war and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa first enter the Union, and meant richer countries in northern and western Europe have borne less of the burden.

Desperate situation

Despite a significant drop in the number of people seeking refuge in Europe, thousands of desperate migrants continue to make their way to European shores. Many make the perilous journey on dangerously overcrowded boats.

As of June 6, some 33,400 migrants and refugees had reached Europe by sea, the IOM said, most of them arriving through Greece, Italy and Spain. The estimated number of deaths stood at 785.

This week, a search and rescue ship was stranded in the Mediterranean for five days with 233 migrants on board before it was finally permitted to dock in Malta.

European governments had wrangled over who held responsibility for migrants arriving on the continent's southern shores as conditions on the ship began to deteriorate.

Growing concern over migration comes at a time when Europe is already dealing with a lingering debt crisis, a rise in European populism, an escalating trade war with the United States, questions over Washington's commitment to NATO and faltering negotiations for Brexit.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115407

Reported Deaths: 3566
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21196765
Lake10493323
Elkhart6528110
St. Joseph6392106
Allen6178202
Hamilton4848109
Vanderburgh360930
Hendricks2715123
Monroe256036
Tippecanoe239113
Johnson2305123
Clark221457
Porter213647
Delaware194262
Cass19419
Vigo182526
Madison164375
LaPorte142340
Floyd135862
Howard130563
Warrick128038
Kosciusko121617
Bartholomew116457
Marshall100824
Dubois96919
Boone96846
Hancock92143
Grant91934
Noble90832
Henry79826
Wayne75414
Jackson7499
Morgan71638
Shelby67229
Daviess66328
Dearborn66028
LaGrange63411
Clinton59914
Harrison57624
Putnam56412
Knox5159
Gibson5114
Lawrence51129
Montgomery50821
White48514
DeKalb47611
Decatur45839
Miami4353
Greene42435
Fayette42113
Jasper3942
Steuben3807
Scott37311
Sullivan33712
Posey3240
Jennings31312
Franklin30725
Clay3005
Ripley2968
Orange28824
Carroll27413
Whitley2707
Washington2651
Wabash2648
Starke2637
Adams2613
Wells2614
Jefferson2483
Spencer2413
Fulton2382
Huntington2363
Tipton22622
Perry22113
Randolph2167
Jay1800
Newton17311
Owen1681
Martin1640
Rush1554
Pike1471
Vermillion1280
Fountain1232
Blackford1193
Pulaski1131
Crawford1050
Brown1043
Parke962
Benton880
Ohio787
Union780
Switzerland690
Warren391
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 148894

Reported Deaths: 4734
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26704607
Cuyahoga17375656
Hamilton13036315
Montgomery7755162
Lucas7280364
Butler5933111
Summit5265252
Marion308847
Mahoning3053281
Warren302349
Stark2838175
Pickaway264344
Lorain230786
Delaware223120
Fairfield208753
Columbiana192980
Licking191063
Trumbull1883132
Wood184172
Clark179440
Clermont170723
Lake161951
Medina146039
Greene144432
Allen143069
Miami142851
Portage113266
Mercer111918
Erie93546
Tuscarawas93020
Wayne92767
Ross87924
Richland86119
Madison81512
Darke79942
Belmont71827
Geauga71349
Hancock69510
Athens6692
Ashtabula65748
Lawrence65322
Shelby62510
Auglaize5979
Putnam58523
Sandusky56320
Huron5427
Union5292
Scioto4986
Seneca47014
Ottawa46830
Preble43315
Muskingum4012
Holmes3859
Jefferson3364
Henry31213
Logan3093
Champaign3043
Perry2969
Clinton29413
Defiance28911
Brown2882
Knox28415
Washington26023
Morrow2572
Hardin25213
Jackson2506
Fulton2411
Ashland2374
Crawford2366
Coshocton23411
Fayette2306
Highland2273
Wyandot21012
Williams2073
Gallia18913
Pike1840
Meigs17410
Guernsey1698
Hocking1639
Carroll1527
Adams1294
Van Wert1173
Monroe11018
Paulding1080
Harrison633
Morgan470
Vinton473
Noble280
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Overcast
65° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 65°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 73°
Warm, Summer-Like Weekend
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events