Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga has called on Italy to comply with its obligations under the Dublin agreement and register asylum seekers. She also signalled Switzerland’s willingness to help share the asylum burden.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with European Union (EU) interior ministers in Luxembourg, Sommaruga said Switzerland was prepared to assist Italy. Areas of Swiss support could include providing personnel or assisting with the registration of migrants.
“But Italy must first fulfil its obligations,” she added.
The meeting ended with an agreement on a common strategy to deal with exceptional situations relating to refugees, such as the Italian case, in order to ensure the functioning of the Dublin agreement and to provide relief to countries that are excessively burdened by the migrant influx.
Interior ministers agreed in principle to a voluntary sharing of the refugee burden with overburdened EU countries in exceptional situations.
"Now the ball is in Italy's court to spell out its needs," said Sommaruga.
The Dublin agreement, which Switzerland joined in 2008, stipulates that the country where a person first applies for asylum is responsible for that individual’s asylum process. Asylum seekers who travel to another country and reapply for asylum are sent back to the country where they first applied.
Switzerland sent a letter to Brussels in mid-September calling for Italy to fulfil its obligations under the Dublin agreement and record all asylum seekers arriving on its territory. France, Germany, Poland and Britain have also complained to the European Commission about Italy’s inaction.
The problem cannot be resolved unless everyone contributes, said the justice minister. "The majority of refugees do not even manage to reach Europe," said Sommaruga in reference to the "catastrophic conditions" in Libya that many migrants have to face in order to enter Europe.
swissinfo.ch and agencies