Maas calls for a "coalition of the willing"

Who takes in migrants rescued from distress at sea? That is what two EU ministerial meetings this week are about.

Seenotrettung im Mittelmeer: Maas fordert "Bündnis der Hilfsbereiten"
dpa

Berlin/Vienna (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for a "coalition of the willing" to distribute migrants rescued in the Mediterranean across Europe - an initiative that was immediately shot down by Austria's former chancellor. EU justice and interior ministers are to discuss EU migrant policy at a meeting in Helsinki on Thursday.

Maas earlier Saturday called for the new alliance in an interview with German media group RND, saying countries willing to take in refugees must act after a series of stand-offs in recent weeks between rescue ships and Italian authorities at Mediterranean ports.

"An agreement on sea rescues in the Mediterranean can no longer fail on the back of disagreements over the distribution of the rescued. This blockade must finally come to an end," Maas said.

Germany was prepared to make a substantial contribution and to guarantee taking a regular contingent of rescued migrants, Maas said. All EU countries would be invited to participate in the voluntary measure.

An agreement on sea rescues in the Mediterranean can no longer fail on the back of disagreements over the distribution of the rescued.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

The arrival of rescue vessels carrying migrants toward European shores has sparked weeks of debate and dispute as Italy has refused to take in additional migrants and refused port entry to the aid ships, forcing Germany and other EU countries to offer a home for the rescued instead.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Saturday again condemned the work of NGOs in the Mediterranean, saying the "pirate ships" were leading to deaths by encouraging migrants to make the dangerous journey. However, a number of studies have shown that NGOs have little or no effect on the number of migrants trying to make the dangerous crossing.

Total numbers have fallen drastically since July 2017, but this has widely been attributed to Italy's former government reaching a cooperation deal with Libya to curb the flow of migrants.

The German NGO Sea-Eye on Saturday said it will restart migrant rescue missions in the Mediterranean at the end of July.