“We have not been touched now”, said the Prime Minister, addressing Social Democrat MP Isabel Meireles, who asked him what measures he has planned to “halt the advance of these [migratory] flows that in the medium term could act as a time bomb for the country”.
The Prime Minister was speaking in Parliament during the preparatory debate for the European Council, which coincided with the presentation of the European Commission’s long-awaited proposal for a reform of European migration policy.
“If there have been signs of a new Atlantic route to Europe, this is a problem we have been facing from the moment the first migrant arrived, to any country in the European Union,” he said.
He added, “Because this is not a national problem, contrary to what Mr André Ventura thinks, it is a problem for the whole of the European Union and one to which we must respond in solidarity”.
“That is why we are in favour of solidarity in the distribution of candidates for international protection in the European Union and that is why we have already received around 350 refugees from Italy and 1,200 from Greece,” Costa said.
The Left Block and the People-Nature Party (PAN) highlighted the recent tragedy in Moria’s overcrowded Greek refugee camp, where a fire left thousands homeless, with the block activist Beatriz Dias Gomes denouncing the “insufficient response by the European Union” and PAN MP Inês de Sousa Real warning that efforts cannot be limited to “media tragedies”.
In his reply, the Prime Minister said that “the fire in Moria had barely begun” when he contacted his Greek counterpart to make himself available to receive “around 100 refugee minors immediately”, “20 of them unaccompanied minors”, a readiness which he also conveyed to the German Presidency.
But, he said, this is a sustained effort by the government, which has “voluntarily participated in all the ‘ad hoc’ reception operations that have been requested by Malta, Italy and Greece” and will continue “to participate in all”.
The new Migration and Asylum Pact, announced by the European Commission, aims to make it compulsory for all EU countries to show ‘solidarity’ with countries with high arrival rates, such as Greece, Italy or Malta, when the latter are ‘under pressure’.
The aid can take the form of relocation of asylum seekers to other EU countries, but also of ‘assistance for their return’ to their country of origin when they are refused asylum, the European Commission explained.