BRUSSELS, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Leaders from a group of member states of the European Union (EU) Sunday gathered in Brussels for an informal summit to find a solution to the vexed migration issue, which has fuelled divisions across the bloc in the past several years.
The informal summit, convened by European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker, is expected to lay the groundwork for the formal one slated for June 28-29, when the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) will feature prominently on the agenda.
The informal summit, an open-ended roundtable discussion aimed at "finding European solutions to the migration and asylum issues", failed to have neither adopted conclusions nor scheduled press conference.
Leaders of some central and eastern member states, which have been vehemently opposed to the EU's mandatory relocation scheme, are in no mood to attend the informal summit.
Migration has recently returned to the fore on EU agenda as a war of words broke out between France and Italy over a rescue ship loaded with 629 migrants.
The ship eventually docked in a Spanish port after being turned away by Italy, whose new right-wing, populist coalition government has taken a hardline stance on immigration, as promised on the campaign trail.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is in a bitter falling-out with its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), whose leader Horst Seehofer, also in the post as interior minister, put forward a plan to turn back asylum seekers that were already registered in another EU state.
Merkel has been under intense pressure to find a European alternative within two weeks to the CSU's plan, which, if adopted, is likely to prompt a domino effect and put the visa-free movement in the Schengen area in jeopardy.
Despite heated political row over migration, the arrivals of migrants or refugees to Europe have been on a downward trajectory in the past three years.
According to the data of the International Organization for Migrants (IOM), 52,240 migrants or refugees arrived in Europe as of June 20 this year, compared to 186,768 in 2017 and 390,432 in 2016.
The number of migrants dead or missing in their journey crossing the Mediterranean also dropped sharply. Some 934 migrants are confirmed to be dead or missing thus far this year, while the figure stood at 3,116 in 2017 and 5,143 in 2016.
The EU struck a cash-for-repatriation deal with Turkey in March 2016 and engaged Libyan coast guard in cracking down on migrant trafficking, following the peak year of 2015 which saw more than 1 million irregular migrants flocked to Europe via different routes.