The EU tries again to overcome the migrant crisis that has lasted for years

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union interior ministers on Thursday tried to tackle one of the bloc’s most intractable political problems as they considered new measures to apportion responsibility for migrants entering Europe without authorisation.

Europe’s asylum system collapsed eight years ago after more than a million people entered – most fleeing the conflict in Syria – and overwhelmed reception capacities in Greece and Italy, thus triggering one of the biggest political crises in the EU.

The 27 EU countries have been bickering ever since over which countries should take responsibility for people arriving without permission and whether other members should be obliged to help them cope.

Arriving for the meeting in Luxembourg, the EU’s top migration official, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, said it was a “hugely important day” to resolve what has “been a marathon” for Europe.

“Of this marathon, we have maybe 100 meters left. So we are so close to finding an agreement today,” Johansson said. “I expect member states to be able to go the last few extra yards to get the deal done.”

“If we are not united, we are all losers,” she said.

Under existing rules, countries where migrants first arrive must interview and screen them and process applications from those who may wish to seek asylum. But Greece, Italy and Malta argue that managing the number of people entering is too cumbersome.

Later attempts to impose quota systems on countries to distribute migrants were challenged in court and eventually abandoned.

The EU presidency, currently held by Sweden, has proposed a system under which countries that do not want to take in migrants could pay instead. Figures of around 20,000 euros ($21,400) per migrant circulated ahead of the meeting. It remains to be seen whether the idea will be accepted.

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