Urgent steps needed by EU to tackle migration, says Theresa May


Urgent steps must be taken by the European Union to address the growing migration crisis, Theresa May said in a joint call with Germany and France for an emergency meeting of ministers.

In a joint statement with her counterparts from Paris and Berlin, the Home Secretary said interior and justice ministers should meet within two weeks to draw up concrete proposals.

Reception centres to register and fingerprint new arrivals at common arrival points and an agreed list of "safe" countries in a bid to speed up asylum decisions are among the steps they suggested were needed.

Greece, Italy and other border countries are struggling to cope with record numbers of new arrivals, many seeking refuge from the conflict in Syria, with a surge over the summer taking the year's total to beyond 340,000.

Mrs May said the EU's "broken" system had exacerbated the issue - resulting in a string of high-profile tragedies such as the 71 suspected migrants found dead in the back of an abandoned truck in Austria and thousands more drowned in the Mediterranean.

The tragic scenes should act as a "wake up call", she wrote in The Times, to "the consequences of uncontrolled migration on wages, jobs and social cohesion of the destination nations; on the economies and societies of the rest; and on the lives and welfare of those who seek to come here".

"The events of this summer have shown that the most tragic consequences of a broken European migration system have been borne by those at risk of exploitation," she said - with scenes of migrants seeking to evade security to get from Calais into the UK also fresh in the mind.

"And the greatest beneficiaries have been the callous gangs who sell false dreams and trade on the free borders within the EU.

"As countries in Europe are increasingly realising, these tragedies have been exacerbated by the European system of no borders, the Schengen area, in which the UK has never taken part."

She discussed the situation with France's Bernard Cazeneuve and Germany's Thomas de Maziere in Paris on Saturday, when they were part of a summit discussing rail security measures in the wake of the gun attack on a French train.

"They agreed that immediate action has to be taken to face the challenge in managing the migratory flows," the joint statement said.

"In particular they emphasised the need to establish the so called 'hot spots' to register and fingerprint the migrants and to identify those in clear need of international protection in Greece and Italy as soon as possible and at the latest by the end of the year.

"In addition a list of safe countries of origin should be set up as soon possible in order to further develop the Common European Asylum System to provide protection for refugees and also to ensure effective returns for illegal migrants.

"Therefore, the ministers have asked the EU presidency of Luxembourg to issue invitations for a special justice and Home Affairs Council meeting within the next two weeks to prepare concrete steps in view to finalise decisions in the regular council meeting on 8 October."

Mrs May also renewed demands for action to stem the flow of jobseekers arriving in the UK from other EU countries - after the Government was embarrassed by official figures showing net migration at a record 330,000 in the year to March.

She insisted a target to reduce the level to below 100,000 remained in place but echoed a call by Prime Minister David Cameron for arrivals to be limited to those with a job to come to.

"When it was first enshrined, free movement meant the freedom to move to a job, not the freedom to cross borders to look for work or claim benefits.

"Yet last year, four our of 10 EU migrants, 63,000 people, came here with no definite job whatsoever," she said.

The issue forms a central plank of Mr Cameron's drive to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU.