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Britain will be 'forced' by Brussels to accept Mediterranean migrants

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The plan, driven by Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, is “practically seen as a declaration of war”, senior EU official says

Every country within the EU could be forced to accept a quota of refugees under highly controversial plans to be unveiled by Brussels this week.

Britain said it would refuse to accept the proposal by the European Commission to share the refugees and asylum seekers – who have arrived in their thousands in southern Italy in recent months – among the EU’s 28 member states.

The plan, driven by Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, is “practically seen as a declaration of war”, one senior EU official said.

According to the draft, seen by Italian media ahead of its unveiling on Wednesday, “the EU needs a permanent system for sharing the responsibility for large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers among member states”.

It is thought Mr Juncker will propose a quota of 20,000 refugees to be distributed evenly across the EU according to the country’s population, GDP and unemployment level, as well as its track record as a host for asylum seekers.

David Cameron talking with Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels last August (Reuters)

The proposals are likely to create deep divisions across the EU and will face stiff opposition from governments who want the system to be voluntary.

“Juncker wants a required quota of refugees, but this is practically seen as a declaration of war by certain member states,” a top European official told AFP.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said last week that “any decisions [on asylum] should be on a voluntary basis”.

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She said that “many will have paid organised crime groups to get them through [the Mediterranean]” and that “if we are really going to stop the people putting their lives in danger by crossing the Med, we need to stop them starting their journey in the first place.”

The long-awaited European Agenda on Migration has strong support from Italy, Austria and Germany, which, together with Sweden, takes almost half of asylum seekers in the EU. However, Britain, Slovakia, Hungary and Ireland oppose the plan – which will need approval from all 28 EU governments before it can be implemented.

“It is a mad idea for someone to let refugees into their own country instead of defending their borders and then to say I will redistribute them among you,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told a public radio station on Friday. “This is an unfair and indecent proposal. We therefore cannot support it.”

The proposal says “emergency mechanisms” could be invoked by the end of the month to ensure all EU countries share “persons in clear need of international protection”. Asylum applications in the EU jumped by 44 per cent in 2014 to 626,000, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat. More than 200,000, or one in three, were registered in Germany, followed by Sweden with 81,200 and Italy with 64,600.

Sergio Mattarella, President of Italy, accused countries opposing the plan of “selfishness”. Rome had hoped that the EU plan would force member states to take economic migrants as well as asylum seekers. Separately, the EU will seek to obtain a UN mandate today for armed action in Libya’s sovereign waters to stem people-trafficking operations.

Source: The Telegraph

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