Government: We are in solidarity with Italy, but will not take refugees ({{commentsTotal}})

Migrants at sea being helped by a rescue boat.
Migrants at sea being helped by a rescue boat. Source: Reuters / Scanpix

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and interior minister Mart Helme said the government stands in solidarity with Italy, but has no further plans to voluntarily accept refugees who arrive there.

"We will proceed on a voluntary basis when accepting immigrants," Ratas said at a government press conference on Thursday, ERR reported (link in Estonian).

"We are currently taking the position we have adopted in the coalition. But it was also the position of the previous coalition, and as far as I know, the one before that," the Prime Minister said.

"Italy has spoken not only of accepting [asylum seekers or refugees] but also of the Member States' contributions to protecting the European Union's external borders," Ratas added. "Certainly we agree on the principle of accepting on a voluntary basis, and at the moment we have not made any decision to accept it on a voluntary basis," he stressed.

Ratas also mentioned Estonia's contribution to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which so far Estonia has contributed €1.45 million too.

Helme pointed out the words of a French representative at this week's EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, who said Paris understands that migration is also an internal policy issue and does not want it to undermine the unity of the European Union. 

France welcomes every manifestation of solidarity, including those manifesting themselves in ways other than receiving refugees, Helme said.

Helme said Estonia is prepared to contribute in other ways, with technical assistance or human expertise, to help resolve this issue. But added: "We understand the concerns of these countries, but we certainly will not join in the redistribution."

Two weeks ago in Valletta, European Union member states Malta, Italy, France, and Germany invited other countries in September to voluntarily admit immigrants who land on Malta and Italy's shores. 

The subject was discussed at a meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, but Helme said only Portugal, Luxembourg, and Ireland were willing to accept migrants voluntarily. Most countries were sceptical of accepting more refugees but said they would increase technical assistance. 

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Editor: Helen Wright



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