Germany suspends voluntary deal to take in refugees from Italy

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government has suspended an agreement with Italy to voluntarily take in refugees because Rome is not honouring its obligations under the European Union's Dublin rules, said a spokesperson for the interior ministry in Berlin on Wednesday.

Under a voluntary EU solidarity scheme, Germany had pledged to help member states that are particularly overwhelmed by migrants by taking in 3,500 people, said the spokesperson.

So far, Germany has taken in 1,731 people from other EU countries through the mechanism, including 1,043 from Italy.

However, the spokesperson said Italy has "for some time" stopped receiving people being returned from Germany under the Dublin Regulations, which require asylum requests to be handled in the country where the person first claimed asylum.

According to the spokesperson, this applies to over 12,400 people, only 10 of whom have been relocated to Italy so far.

As soon as the Italian government respects the Dublin rules, the solidarity mechanism can be resumed, added the spokesperson.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Rachel More)