Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has threatened the European Union that Italy will distribute temporary visas allowing migrants to travel around Europe under Schengen regulations ahead of the EU interior ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, according to local media.
“If the European Council chooses solidarity, then good. If it doesn’t we have a Plan B ready but that would be a wound inflicted on Europe,” Renzi told Corriere della Sera.
Renzi has not provided much information on the details of “Plan B,” however, the Guardian has reported that Rome will issue temporary visas to migrants and that it will not allow asylum seekers rescued by British, French, German and other naval ships to disembark on its shores.
Under the Schengen treaty, citizens of the EU are allowed to cross borders freely in most of the 28-member bloc states.
On June 9, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) released statistics showing the high number of migrants that have taken the deadly voyage to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
The UNHCR states that 54,000 people have arrived in Italy, 48,000 in Greece, 920 in Spain and another 91 in Malta.
Over 1,800 people have died trying to take on the perilous Mediterranean voyage, with still hundreds of bodies not recovered following the most horrific incident when a boat with multiple floors capsized, claiming the lives of an estimate of 800 people on April 19.
The meeting of the interior ministers of the EU nations to be held on Tuesday in Luxembourg will predominantly discuss the mandatory migrant quota system and the worsening Mediterranean migrant crisis which is a growing burden on Italy and Greece.
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.
According to Euroactiv, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz is clearly opposed any sort of mandatory quota system and has stated that it should be voluntary, yet following the commission's announcement Poland will agree to take in 60 Syrian families on the condition that all refugees are Christians.
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.