European Union leaders agree on screening centers to ease migrant crisis

European Union leaders agree on screening centers to ease migrant crisis

Following a gruelling nine hours of "often stormy" overnight talks in Brussels on Thursday, leaders agreed on a tentative plan of action that will create secure processing centres across Europe, Reuters reports.

On EU territory, those who are saved, according to global law, should be taken charge of, on the basis of a shared effort, through the transfer in controlled centres set up in Member States, only on a voluntary basis, where rapid and secure processing would allow, with full EU support, to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of worldwide protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply.

European leaders agreed on Friday morning at 4:40 a.m.to push for screening centers in African countries where asylum claims could be evaluated, thus reducing the number of migrants who employ smugglers and attempt the unsafe journey across the Mediterranean Sea - in some cases only to have their asylum applications rejected. The other option is disembarkation in non-EU countries, apparently in North Africa, if the rescue operation had taken place in the territorial waters of those countries.

However, much of the agreement - which comes amid an ongoing crisis over the influx of mainly North African and Middle Eastern refugees arriving by sea - is voluntary and it remains to be seen whether European Union member states will follow through.

Africa co-operation: European Union leaders called for greater cooperation with African countries and an increase in development funding.

The new Italian government wanted other European Union nations to commit to sharing the load Italy carries as the landing point for migrants coming over from North Africa. "We are satisfied. Today Italy is no longer alone".

"I did not undersign any specific agreement with Merkel" on taking back migrants, he added.

The UNHCR said about 40,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea this year, nearly six times fewer than over the same period in 2016.

The 28 leaders agreed to consider setting up "disembarkation platforms" outside the bloc, most likely in North Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound boats.

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About 56,000 migrants have arrived in Europe so far this year, the International Organization for Migration says.

Although the deal could count as a win for leaders such as Germany's embattled Chancellor Angela Merkel, even she acknowledged that there was "a lot of work to do to bridge the different views". "All hastily-made solutions, be they exclusively national ones or a betrayal of our values that consists in pushing people off to third countries, were clearly set aside", he said.

Twelve hours after talks began, EU President Donald Tusk said on Twitter that "EU28 leaders have agreed on. conclusions" including migration.

Ahead of the summit, Merkel had warned that the crisis over migration could decide "the fate of the E.U".

She described the deal as a "right step in the right direction" given what she said were widely divergent stances on migration within the EU.

Imogen Sudbery at the International Rescue Committee said the "disembarkation platforms" raise more questions.

Asked about how youngsters would be treated under the terms of the deal, Sarah Crowe from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that the "detention issue" needed clarifying. Would those apprehended be transferred to the nearest safe port?

Juncker told reporters that a consensus had been reached to release a second payment under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey program in the amount of 3 billion euros, with the aim of preventing new crossings from Turkey and bringing the flows to a halt. Who would be responsible for those whose claims are upheld?

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