In an exclusive interview with New Europe, Luxembourg’s minister for labour, employment and social economy discussed the worsening refugee crisis in Italy. Nicolas Schmit, whose landlocked country in north-western Europe has barely been affected by the crisis, agreed that the problem is a European one and that Italy, as well as other frontline countries, should not be left to cope alone.

New Europe: These are very difficult times for Italy where thousands of migrants are washing up on the country’s shores. Do you think we should change the strategy to address this issue?

Nicolas Schmit: I see that in Europe we act as the migration problem was solved, this is because now we have only one or two countries that are facing this problem. One of these countries is Italy.

Therefore, it would be urgent to meet and reaffirm that now we can’t leave Italy, and maybe tomorrow also Greece or other countries, with this big responsibility. We have to find concrete solutions against the human trafficking because until now we haven’t succeeded in stopping it.

I know that there are various challenges on the table because Libya is still not a real functioning state and we don`t have someone to talk to, then we have the migrants risking their lives every day and we can`t accept this. We have to find new effective solutions taking into consideration that most people landing in Italy are coming from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan so we have to find in these countries the origins of the problem.

After holding meetings, meeting and more meetings, what do we need to do at the EU level to completely tackle the issue?

All EU member states are touched by this crisis, even if the flux is coming to Italy, it is a common problem. Unfortunately, we left Italy alone. But now we need to underline how this is a European problem with European solutions that we need to search with the countries directly involved. It is then necessary to find innovative solutions to stop the human trafficking but also to finally completely protect the migrants crossing the sea.

Do you think a fix presence in Libya might be the solution?

Look, for sure Europe has to work with the UN but also with the Libyan authorities who are the real problem now. Refugees who are in Libya now are suffering very much; some of them are almost in a situation of half-slavery to cross the sea; this is unacceptable for me.

How do you handle the integration of migrants in Luxembourg?

When they receive the refugee status you have to work with them. Once you know which professional skills they have, it is key to teach them the languages. We organise specific language courses, we make an evaluation of their professional competences and we provide also job trainings in order to find them an occupation.

In the end, to have positive results we have to invest in them and I think it is a good investment because finally they are integrated bearing in mind, we always speak about values, that our values in our society are not negotiable.

When you go somewhere you need to respect the values of the place hosting you.

Do you think the other EU member states will agree to give more money because of the crisis? 

It is clear that the countries that are first receiving a big number of migrants have to receive our solidarity, then we have the problem of the countries that are refusing to host the refugees and this is against the European solidarity. A balanced resettlement of refugees is important, but we should also look to the other costs. If you think that Greece, which is facing big social and economic problems, proportionally receives most of the refugees.

Finally, the EU spent too much time before giving a concrete help, an aid which is not balanced with what the country has given. This is not a good example of EU solidarity. We should do more.