4 EU nations seek endorsement for 'fast-track' migrant plan

A migrant hugs an SOS Mediterranee rescuer aboard the Ocean Viking ship before stepping into the port of Messina, Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. He was among 182 people aboard the Ocean Viking rescued in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)
A little boy looks at police from aboard the Ocean Viking in the Mediterranean Sea, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. He was among 182 people aboard the Ocean Viking rescued in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya. (AP Photo/Renata Brito

BRUSSELS — Four European Union nations are proposing a "fast-track system" for getting migrants off boats in trouble in the Mediterranean Sea and the asylum-seekers on board divided among countries willing to take them.

A statement obtained by European civil liberties watchdog Statewatch says Germany, France, Italy and Malta foresee a process that would screen migrants, relocate asylum-seekers and return those who don't qualify or never applied for protection - all within four weeks.

The Associated Press confirmed the statement's authenticity on Tuesday. The sponsoring nations plan to seek approval from other EU members next week.

The document says EU members prepared to take in asylum-seekers and handle their applications would make "pre-declared pledges" of some kind.

It says the EU would provide "financial, technical and operational assistance" to those countries.

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