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EU leaders to hold crisis talks on migration

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — The leaders of 10 EU countries will hold crisis talks on migration in Brussels Sunday aimed at countering movement of asylum seekers between member nations which is a source of tensions within the bloc.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called the meeting at the last minute as the issue causes fresh divisions in Europe, three years after the bloc faced its biggest migration crisis since World War II.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government coalition is under threat from the issue and there has also been a row over a boatload of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean who were turned away by Italy's new right-wing government.

Hungary meanwhile passed a law today criminalising aid groups that help migrants.

"I am convening an informal working meeting on migration and asylum issues in Brussels on Sunday, in order to work with a group of Heads of State or Government of Member States interested in finding European solutions ahead of the upcoming #EUCO (European Council)," Juncker said on Twitter today.

Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgian premier Charles Michel have all confirmed their attendance, officials said.

The leaders of frontline states Italy and Greece will also be involved, as well as Austria and Bulgaria, who are the incoming and outgoing holders of the EU's rotating six-month presidency, European sources told AFP.

The meeting comes ahead of a full summit of all 28 European Union leaders next Thursday to discuss plans to overhaul the bloc's asylum system, which has been under severe pressure since the migration crisis exploded in 2015.

But even as numbers crossing the Mediterranean have dropped since then, efforts to reach a consensus have been thrown into turmoil by fresh developments in Europe as countries disagree over who should host new arrivals.

According to a draft conclusion for Sunday's meeting seen by AFP, they would undertake to speed up the return of asylum seekers from one EU state to another when the latter country is regarded as responsible for processing their application.

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