11 May 2015
EU proposes refugee-quota system: responsibility must be shared between member states
In the wake of migrant boat crises in the Mediterranean the European Commission has proposed a controversial Union-wide immigration policy. The proposal, which is set to launch on 13 May 2015, seeks to impose a quota system on the 28 member states requiring them to share the burden of ‘persons in clear need of international protection’ and ‘ensure a fair and balanced participation of all member states to this common effort’. The policy document lays down binding rules establishing a regime of refugee sharing among the member states based on a ‘key’. The system, drafted by EU Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, determines the proportion of refugees each state is obliged to accept based on criteria ranging from rates of unemployment to national wealth.
The mechanism is supported by Germany and Sweden, which accept nearly half the asylum seekers entering Europe annually. The numbers are predicted to double this year, rising to 400,000 refugees in Germany alone. However, the proposal has been fiercely opposed by other states. The UK Home Office has labelled it ‘unacceptable’, with a spokesperson stating that ‘we do not believe that a mandatory system of resettlement is the answer. We will oppose any EU commission proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota’. The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán – a ‘hardliner’ on immigration – has followed suit. ‘The European concept of “someone letting immigrants into their country” and then “distributing” them among the other member states is a mad and unfair idea’, he stated.
Despite the objections, the policy paper insists on the creation of a legal means for migrants to enter Europe. ‘Such vulnerable people cannot be left to resort to the criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers. There must be safe and legal ways for them to reach the EU’, the document says. ‘The EU needs a permanent system for sharing the responsibility for large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers among member states’, the paper continues. ‘Some member states have already made a major contribution to [refugee] resettlement efforts. But others offer nothing.’
The proposal comes at the same time as a draft resolution is presented to the UNSC. The draft, lead by Britain, calls for a mission to Libya and is believed to authorise the ‘use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers’ who are suspected of affiliating with Libyan militias, jihadist groups and Islamic State (Isis). The mission, which would include 10 EU countries and potentially NATO, is said to be part of a two-prong attack against the unlawful flow of people through the Mediterranean. Unlike the refugee quota proposal, however, the draft resolution appears to be enjoying a degree of consensus among the EU member states.