Merkel Says Italy Can’t Handle Latest Refugee Influx on Its Own

  • German chancellor warns of shifting Mediterranean migrant path
  • Won’t be possible to deport to Libya, she tells party meeting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said an increase in migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea is reviving pressure on the European Union and she renewed her call for all 28 EU nations to help resettle refugees.

The EU won’t be able to send back asylum seekers to Libya, which has no functioning government, Merkel told a state gathering of her Christian Democratic Union in the town of Prenzlau on Friday. Some 46,100 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Italy this year, with almost a third of them arriving last week, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

“We can’t just leave Italy arbitrarily on its own,” Merkel told the meeting some 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Berlin. “We need to talk to each other about how we share the burden.”

The flood of migrants to northern Europe from the Middle East has been stemmed after Balkan countries shut their borders and the EU locked in a German-driven accord with Turkey to stop the influx. That’s put European leaders on guard for a shift of the migrant influx west to the Mediterranean, a more dangerous maritime journey to Europe. More than 700 perished in three shipwrecks last week.

Merkel criticized an Austrian plan to stop passport-free travel across the Brenner Pass from Italy should refugee flows turn to that route, one of Europe’s north-south trade and transportation arteries.

“The idea to close the Brenner is not a particularly good idea,” Merkel said.