Leaders of 16 European Union member states met yesterday to discuss a proposal which would see detention camps set up for refugees in North African countries.
Discussing the refugee crisis before the upcoming debate by the European Commission on Thursday, the leaders could not agree on the location of the detention centres.
While countries like Italy insist on setting up these centres outside their territories and establishing them in states to the south of the Mediterranean, other countries including France and Germany prefer Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, to receive illegal immigrants on their territory before a decision is made on their cases.
The idea of establishing detention centres for illegal immigrants in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya is not new as it dates back to the 1990s when it was first initiated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. However, the idea was not supported by the European countries and was met with strong rejection by the Arab Maghreb countries.
Italy has threatened to boycott Thursday’s meeting if EU countries do not follow a firm strategy to tackle illegal immigration.
Many European countries have witnessed a rise in right-wing support and parties coming to power with some passing laws which criminalise anyone who supports illegal immigrants, including lawyers and human rights groups.
Earlier this month, Italy refused to receive a ship carrying more than 650 illegal immigrants who had been rescued at sea.