In response to thousands of deaths among people trying to reach Europe from North Africa across the Mediterranean, the European Commission has unveiled a new plan to distribute asylum seekers around EU member states and take in 20,000 more potential refugees in the next two years. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are exempt from the quota plan under EU law.
One category of the plan is to relocate migrants already in EU. Migrants will be distributed based on key data such as national population; GDP; unemployment and numbers of existing migrants over the period from 2010 to 2014. The EU Commission calculates that of these, Germany would take the largest number - 18.4% - followed by France (14%), Italy (11.8%) and Spain (9%).The other category is to resettle a number of 20,000 potential refugees to Europe, at a cost of €50m in the next two years.
The Commission is urging other EU states to share the responsibility of processing asylum claims, which Italy and Greece are struggling to cope with. ‘We have to show more solidarity,’ commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, ‘We will put in place a system of quotas that makes it easier, in an equitable and mutually supportive way, to allocate refugees who ask for and are entitled to asylum.’
Germany, Italy and some other countries back the new proposal, while eastern countries fear extra influx. The British home secretary, Theresa May, had indicated Britain would exercise its legal right to opt out the scheme. May argued that nothing should be done to encourage more people to make the perilous journeys to Europe.
If the UK decides to opt in to the refugee resettlement plan, it would accept 2,309 - 11.5% of the 20,000 total, the Commission says.
France, unlike its earlier statement of support, has just joined the group of nations to oppose the quota plan. Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said on Saturday: “I am against the introduction of quotas for migrants. This has never been in keeping with French proposals.”
Others argue that it is with little regard for the humanitarian, social and political consequences to move tens of thousands of people around the EU. Doubts are that whether a scheme based on numbers of applicants alone would be practical without considering how these people would fare in their new homes.