NICE, France (Reuters) - The European Union needs a system of border controls and a way for asylum seekers to be more fairly distributed among EU member states, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday.
Nearly 1,000 migrants, many coming from Africa via Italy, were intercepted in southern France near the Italian border in the past three days, officials said at the weekend.
In response, border police forces and controls on highways, trains and buses and various check points have been beefed up, Valls said as he visited Menton, a Riviera town only a few kilometres from the Italian border.
“We need to create a European system of border controls,” Valls said, adding that France was making concrete proposals to Brussels on the matter.
“Asylum seekers need to be distributed among EU states more fairly,” he said, calling for a renewed crackdown on criminal networks profiting from the refugees’ travels.
Valls said France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom had accepted 75 percent of asylum seekers in Europe and that France “had already done a lot,” having welcomed already 5,000 from Syria and 4,500 from Iraq since 2012.
This week, the European Commission proposed quotas based on criteria such as states’ population, to more fairly distribute the asylum seekers following the strong influx. But Britain’s newly re-elected Conservative leaders rejected any quota system imposed from Brussels.
“I am against the introduction of quotas for migrants,” said Valls. “Asylum is a right, attributed according to international criteria ... That is why the number of its beneficiaries cannot be subject to quotas, one is an asylum seeker or not.”
Valls said the EU faced a refugee crisis after over 3,000 people died and about 170,000 were rescued in the Mediterranean trying to reach European coasts last year, a wave he described as “more than twice the influx linked to the Arab Spring.”
Many of them are fleeing hunger and war in Africa and the Middle East.
Reporting by Matthias Galante; Writing by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Tom Heneghan