Frank-Walter Steinmeier knows that Italy needs help because of the latest influx, but he says that Berlin has similar problems.
Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has said that the country can not take in any more refugees. He felt sorry for Italy, which is being overrun by new arrivals, and said that to solve the problem, an effective EU-wide sharing system needs to be made.
The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera talked to Steinmeier on Wednesday, not long after he arrived in Italy for a business trip. The recent rise in immigration and how it affects the relationship between Berlin and Rome was one of the things discussed.
The German president said that Italy should not have to handle the problem alone and praised the country for “showing so much humanitarian responsibility toward the refugees who came from the Mediterranean in recent years.”
He also said that he takes “very seriously” the calls for help from Italian cities but that German cities are no better because both countries have “heavy loads to carry.”
“Germany, like Italy, is at its limit,” Steinmeier said, noting “strong immigration from the eastern borders, from Syria and Afghanistan,” as well as the arrival of “over a million refugees from Ukraine.” He said that in the first half of this year, 162,000 people asked for refuge in Germany.
The German president called for “fair distribution in Europe” by creating a “permanent solidarity mechanism” and tighter controls at the EU’s borders.
Last week, the German newspaper Die Welt said that Interior Ministry officials told them that Berlin had temporarily stopped letting refugees who came through Italy at the end of last month.
Officials were described in the news as saying that the “voluntary solidarity mechanism” had been put on hold because Italy refused to follow the Dublin Regulation repeatedly; this says that an asylum seeker’s request should be handled by the first involved country where they appear.
According to Die Welt, Rome told other EU member states in December that it would stop transferring migrants back to Italy “for a limited time” because of “suddenly arising technical” problems with the country’s ability to take in people. Since then, this suspension has stayed in place, the news source said.
In August, Italy’s Interior Ministry said that 89,158 illegal immigrants had crossed the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of the year; this was 115% more than in 2022.