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Give more role to local authorities to manage refugee crisis, says UN Migration Agency

Cities and regions “better positioned” to handle immigration

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14 June 2018 01:41 PM

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ACN | Brussels

As more and more people try and make their way to Europe, often risking their lives over land or across the sea, “local communities and regions” should have more voice in the management of the refugee crisis. This is what the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) regional director, Eugenio Ambrosi, told the Catalan News Agency.

Cities and autonomous regions are “better positioned” to handle immigration. “In the end, the receiving of immigrants, as well as their integration, is done locally,” he said.

In the spotlight again

The debate on the refugee crisis has resurfaced once again, with the ongoing saga of the rescue ship Aquarius, carrying 629 migrants, currently en route to Valencia after being blocked by Italian and Maltese ports. According to Ambrosi, this case shows that an EU agreement to manage migratory flows is “more necessary every day.” “What Spain has done is very good, but what will we do when there is another boat?” he asks.

Not impossible

120,000 people came to Italy after crossing the Mediterranean last year, according to the official figures from the IOM. This is not “impossible” to manage, said the expert.

“120,000 people arriving in one year is nothing for Europe, it’s 0.07% of the European population,” Ambrosi pointed out.

In the case of the Aquarius, Barcelona has offered to take in 100 of the refugees. Other offers have come from cities and towns such as Lleida Hospitalet de Llobregat, and Terrassa. The Catalan government also expressed its willingness to help, saying it is ready to host 600 refugees, and can host up to 1,800.

The previous Spanish government did not allow cities or autonomous communities to directly take in refugees, so many local offers could not be carried out. In 2017, more than 22,000 people made it to Spanish shores, with many ending up in one of the seven migration detention centres in the country, and others dying along the way. 

According to the regional director of the United Nations’ Migration Agency, the “fundamental” problem is not where the immigrants and refugees arrive, whether they end up in Italy, Spain, or elsewhere.” For Ambrosi, it is a case of finding an alternative so that it is not only countries outside the European Union that carry the “burden.”  ?

The “limit of legality”

Italy’s decision to block the Aquarius rescue ship from Italian ports is at “limit of legality.” The choice made by Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, impeded a “boat with people rescued from the sea, from disembarking in the closest and safest port.”

Ambrosi explained that if “there is no agreement between countries for people to disembark, the authority that coordinated the rescue is responsible to ensure the landing, and in this case was Italy.”

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  • Regional director of International Organization for Migration, Eugenio Ambrosi (by Natàlia Segura)

  • Regional director of International Organization for Migration, Eugenio Ambrosi (by Natàlia Segura)