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The German government has suspended a voluntary agreement with Italy to accept migrants, accusing Rome of failing to meet its obligations under the EU’s Dublin asylum rules.

As part of the EU’s Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism programme, Germany has pledged to take in 3,500 asylum seekers from the EU’s external border countries, which have been hardest hit by the latest wave of migrants. Germany has admitted more than 1,700 people under the program so far, Launched last June.

But Berlin has now halted the transfers, citing Italy’s failure to meet its obligations under the EU’s Dublin Rules, which stipulate that migrants’ asylum claims must be assessed in the European country where they first arrived rather than where they finally arrived.

However, some critics, including within the Italian government, say the rules put undue pressure on Italy and other Mediterranean countries on the front lines of the migrant crisis.

More than 123,800 irregular migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in Italy by boat so far this year, compared with about 65,500 at the same time last year. Italian authorities said about 5,000 people arrived in Lampedusa on Tuesday on more than 100 boats.

For Italian Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni, the surge is a political embarrassment. He came to power after an election a year ago, promising strong measures to curb financial inflows, even by imposing a naval blockade.

Meloni has called on other European member states to do more to help resettle them, but her demands and the treatment of some migrants have caused friction with other EU governments. Italy and France were embroiled in a diplomatic row late last year after Rome refused to allow a French charity ship carrying 234 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean to dock. The passengers were eventually taken to France.

Other EU countries accuse Italy of allowing irregular migrants landing on its shores to travel to other European countries without processing their asylum applications. Countries such as Germany can exploit such Dublin Rule violations to deport migrants back to their country of arrival.

A spokesman for the Berlin Interior Ministry said that given the large number of migrants currently entering Germany, the refusal of some countries, such as Italy, to accept return asylum seekers under the Dublin rules “exacerbates the huge capacity challenges that Germany faces”. Admission and Resettlement (Refugees)”.

He said that Italy was informed at the end of August that the next interview mission in Italy as part of the solidarity mechanism would be postponed indefinitely. He added that Berlin was still allowing asylum seekers who had already been interviewed to enter Germany.

The number of refugees in Germany has increased significantly, putting increasing pressure on municipal services. As of the end of August, the authorities had received a total of 205,000 asylum applications this year, an increase of 77% over the same period last year.

The new arrivals are among 1.1 million Ukrainian refugees who have found safe haven in Germany since Russia invaded Ukraine more than 18 months ago.

But that number is far lower than the 722,000 applications in all of 2016, as conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and other countries triggered a migrant crisis in Europe.

Suspicions are growing that Russia may be in some way responsible for the recent surge in migrants. German investigators say an increasing number of migrants are arriving in Germany via Moscow.

“Illegal immigration through the Russian Federation and from there into the EU via Belarus now represents another flashpoint for the border police forces,” Germany’s federal police, the Federal Police, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.


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