Italy and France have slammed former French President Nicolas Sarkozy for comparing the migrant influx into Europe to water gushing from a burst pipe.
The head of opposition party Les Republicans, Sarkozy publicly spoke to Parisians in one of Paris’ suburbs. He said that Europe’s refugee problem is like a “domestic water leak” and criticised the European Commission for accepting more immigrants into European countries.
“The pipe bursts in the kitchen and the repair man comes and says: 'I have got the solution. We'll keep half the water in the kitchen and put a quarter of it in the living room and the other quarter in the parents' bedroom. If that doesn't sort things out then the rest can go in the children's room” Sarkozy said.
On Friday, French President Francois Hollande urged political leaders to be more serious and cautious when discussing immigration issues. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that "political life deserves better than such stigmatising phrases."
Italy’s European affairs minister Sandro Gozi said that Sarkozy’s remarks were "regrettable when you think of the tragedy that thousands of people have been drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean."
Italian councilor suspended for housing migrants
While Sarkozy has been criticised for his anti-immigration remarks, Italian municipal councilor Daniela Faggion has been suspended from her post for sheltering 15 African refugees in her own property in the northern city of Padua.
Faggion said that “the only reason that led to my removal was because I let migrants stay in my house.”
“When I arrived [at the council meeting] I saw the other council member with serious faces as if I'd killed somebody: then I understood,” Faggion added.
After Padua province Selvazzano Dentro’s mayor Enoch Soranzo released Faggion from her duty, she was also expelled from the anti-immigrant Northern League party
According to the Italian press, Faggion rented apartments and handed them over to the nonprofit Populus organisation to shelter immigrants in Italy.
Migrant flow continuing
The EU’s border agency has announced that people continue to be smuggled from Libya to Europe across the Mediterranean.
Frontex spokeswoman Izabella Cooper said that people will continue migrating as long as war, poverty and political crises continue in their homelands.
"Since the beginning of this year 54,000 migrants have arrived in Italy. We believe that because of the ongoing war in Syria, the difficult situation in Iraq, in Afghanistan, but also in Congo or South Sudan, these flows will continue," Cooper added.
“[Frontex] does not have any evidence that terrorists may be hidden among the migrants," but "of course this remains a risk and we are taking due precautions."
Military operation to prevent smuggling
Fighting against smugglers in the Mediterranean and preventing excessive illegal immigration, EU countries on Friday agreed on a military mission against people smugglers to start as early as next week.
According to AFP, EU countries are to provide ships, aircraft and intelligence gathering for the military operation.
The operation is to consist of three steps. In the first step, the smugglers will be detected via intelligence gathering. The second step involves disposal of the smugglers’ boats and arresting them. In the final step, the EU will take more initiative and conduct a military operation in Libyan territorial waters.
The decision comes following the deaths of hundreds of people fleeing poverty and war-torn countries across the Mediterranean.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on June 9 that almost 103,000 people have taken deadly boat trips across the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe, where the issue of migrants and refugees has raised domestic and international concern.
Over 1,800 people have died during the perilous voyage, with still hundreds of bodies not recovered following the most horrific accident when a boat with multiple floors capsized on April 19, claiming the lives of an estimate of 800 people.
Migrants in Europe
Hundreds of people hoping for better lives flee daily from impoverished and war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia to seek refuge in Europe.
Until now, more than 100,000 migrants have reached Italy, Greece and Malta by crossing the Mediterranean.
In order to ease the burden on their societies, Greece, Malta and Italy have been demanding distribution of these migrants to other EU member countries.
On May 13, the European Commission announced a proposal for a mandatory migrant quota system that it wanted to adopt as part of “immediate measures to prevent human tragedies and to deal with emergencies.”
The intention of the commission is to relocate 40,000 new arrivals within the next two years in accordance with a “distribution key” that considers a country’s population size, unemployment rate and number of asylum seekers previously accepted.
However, Hungary, Spain and Estonia are strongly opposed to the suggestion while the UK and Denmark are opting out.
Italy, Germany, Austria and Sweden are key supporters of the quota system, however there is uncertainty if it will go ahead as the proposal must be agreed upon by all EU member states.