Italy said on Tuesday that the European Union had to choose between its Schengen open borders and its Dublin rules on asylum procedures because the refugee influx meant the two were no longer compatible.
"The European Union (EU) has two possibilities: either it suffers the consequences of the migrant flow or it tries to control it," Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said at a Rome seminar.
"It (the EU) can control it if it acts in a united way and if it recognises that rules thought up a quarter of a century ago are no longer suitable for the flows we are seeing today," he added.
Italy has demanded a review of the Dublin convention’s clause which needs refugees coming into the EU to be processed in their country of arrival, a rule Rome defines as unsustainable given that most refugees arrive by crossing the Mediterranean to Italy or Greece from North Africa or Turkey.
Since the beginning of 2014, more than 320,000 refugees have arrived in Italy. However, over three quarters of them could continue their journeys to preferred destinations in northern Europe without being registered in Italy due to a lack of systematic controls following their arrival.
"Last year, 850,000 migrants arrived in Greece. Under the Dublin accords it is Greece that should have taken them in," Gentiloni said.
"Everyone knows that is not possible, that that is not what happened and yet, despite that, there is still this insistence that the Dublin rules should be respected,” he added.
Italy is now under intense pressure from its EU partners to start processing all the newly arrived refugees including finger-printing them forcibly if necessary. The flow of refugees has brought the Schengen system of open borders within the bloc to the brink of collapse.
"Europe has to recognise this is a medium to long-term issue we are facing and that it has to be addressed by the 28 member states together," Gentiloni said.
Gentiloni also stated that EU governments should accelerate moves to agree on a common list of countries considered safe enough for refugees originating there to be repatriated.
"The distinction between Afghanistan, considered safe (by some European states), and Eritrea, which is not, is rather weak and that requires a decision at European level," Gentiloni said.