Tuesday is scheduled to see France, Germany and Italy, joined by smaller EU member Malta, seeking to gather the rest of the European bloc in joining a scheme regarding the distribution of migrants rescued at sea. Before the meeting of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg, it was unclear how many other states would agree to sign the Malta Declaration that was reached two weeks ago.
In the wake of a massive 2015 influx consisting mostly of Syrian war refugees, migration remains a hot and fiercely debated topic in the EU.
Little or no progress has been made in three years of efforts to update the EU's refugee policy. Turkey and Libya have been the subjects of contentious EU deals made in order to halt migrants' travel onward into Europe.
The Malta Declaration text urges EU countries to take in a share of the asylum-seekers who are crossing the Mediterranean in dire conditions. They are mostly arriving in either Italy or Malta in small and overcrowded boats and in nongovernmental organization (NGO) rescue ships. In order to avoid raising the hackles of any specific state, the document remains deliberately vague. There is no mention of quotas or punishments for EU states that will not participate, for instance.
The system has a six-month lifespan that is renewable with enough support, but is dependent on this support, placing EU states under the responsibility of fulfilling their side of the agreements.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two of the NGOs devoting great attention to the migration situation, have called it a ‘'positive step.'' According to various EU diplomats, the Netherlands is against the scheme, and it is expected that not all of the EU states will be on board with the plan.