European Union hits instant problems over African migrant centre plan

European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels

The migrant crisis, which began in 2015, has slowed considerably in recent years, but it has nonetheless stoked nativist sentiments in such countries as Italy, where a new government includes the right wing, anti-immigrant League party.

Tusk has proposed that the leaders approve work on migrant "disembarkation platforms" in countries outside Europe, most likely in Africa, according to a draft summit statement.

But even as they met for a second day in Brussels, the coastguard in Libya - the main jumping off point for most migrants trying to reach Europe - said around 100 people were missing and feared dead in the Mediterranean Sea after their smugglers' boat capsized.

The country had been asking European Union member countries do more to share responsibility for asylum seekers landing on Italian shores.

"We still have a lot of work to do to bridge the different views", Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said after the discussions, which a senior European official described as sometimes virulent.

The EU statement gave no detail on what form the centres would take, where they would go, or potentially how much they would cost.

European Union leaders also agreed to share responsibility for migrants rescued at sea, a key point insisted upon by Italy's new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Member countries could also create processing centres to determine whether the new arrivals are returned home as economic migrants or admitted as refugees in willing states. A key Italian demand, to overhaul the rules for distributing migrants when the port-of-entry country is overwhelmed, was reportedly also agreed on.

European leaders agreed on Friday morning at 4:40 a.m.to push for screening centers in African countries where asylum claims could be evaluated, thus reducing the number of migrants who employ smugglers and attempt the risky journey across the Mediterranean Sea - in some cases only to have their asylum applications rejected.

After allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015, Dr Merkel faces an end-of-month deadline from her own interior minister to curb so-called secondary migration.

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Earlier in the day, Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte had refused to approve an European Union summit statement on the issue of migration.

"It is far too early to talk about a success", EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters after a compromise was found.

Member States should take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures to counter such movements and to closely cooperate amongst each other to that end.

Migration has become a point of contention for Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany.

The agreement further calls for efforts to break up people smuggling operations, and to be more aggressive in returning refugees who do not qualify for asylum.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz shared Orban's opinion about the solution, "We have always been calling for these protected areas, safe zones, landing centers, however one wants to call them, outside of Europe ― this idea has now prevailed".

"Italy is not alone anymore", he said.

"It really is this engineered panic", Judith Sunderland, an associate director at Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, said.

The leaders agreed to establish voluntary screening centers on European soil, to ease the burden on countries like Italy, Spain and Greece where migrants first arrive and are registered.

Meanwhile, over 500 women including a member of Congress were arrested on Thursday in the US Capitol complex protesting President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy that has triggered thousands of family separations at the border with Mexico.

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