New EU migrant plans ready next week: EU
BRUSSELS / WASHINGTON
Migrants rush to cross into Macedonia after Macedonian police allowed a small group of people to pass through a passageway, as they try to regulate the flow of migrants at the Macedonian-Greek border. Reuters PhotoThe EU executive will outline new plans next week to share out refugees across European states as well as to speed deportations of unwanted migrants, the 28-nation bloc’s migration commissioner said on Sept. 1.
Dimitris Avramopoulos told Reuters that new EU systems for processing asylum claims in Italy, Greece and possibly Hungary could involve detaining those rejected until they return home, as European governments strain to balance obligations to provide refuge with hostility among the public to mass immigration.
In an interview, Avramopoulos said the Commission would put new proposals to interior ministers at an emergency meeting on Sept. 14, five days after Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to outline plans to the European Parliament during his annual state of the Union.
That timetable represents an acceleration in response to a surge in arrivals over the summer while member states argued over how to spread the load. Avramopoulos said his discussions with governments gave him hope they would drop objections to a distribution system for asylum-seekers that Juncker put forward in May and would next week present as a permanent EU mechanism.
“The majority of countries ... want to contribute,” he said. “Some countries that were a bit reluctant ... have changed their mind because now they realize that this problem is not the problem of other countries but theirs as well.”
While the Commission was ready to expand on earlier outline plans to deal with the crisis, however, Avramopoulos insisted there would be no change to the Schengen code which has removed border checks on much of the bloc’s internal frontiers - despite calls for changes to prevent migrants exploiting that openness.
A Commission pilot scheme proposes to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU states and take in 20,000 refugees from abroad. Once that is successfully in place, Avramopoulos said, a permanent system would be implemented.
In June, EU governments rejected binding quotas for taking people in but have failed to muster voluntary offers to reach a target which the Commission and many leaders say is far too low.
“The flows are increasing,” Avramopoulos said. “So the question is shall we respond in a responsible way to the proposal made by the Commission? If this scheme proves workable then we will have a permanent system in the future.”
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia will meet in Bratislava on Sept. 7 to discuss migration, the Czech government’s spokesman said on Sept 2.
Central European countries have seen a growing number of migrants transiting though their nations to reach Germany. Most have been going directly through Austria but numbers found in trains crossing the Czech Republic have jumped in recent days.
A total of 1,500 Syrian refugees will be granted permanent resettlement in U.S by the end of September, a U.S. official said on Sept. 1.
Though the U.S. hasn’t set any specific targets for countries, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he expected the number of Syrian refugees “to increase for 2016.”
Toner noted that U.S. was “the largest provider of humanitarian assistance, providing humanitarian assistance and protection to these asylum-seekers” and has provided more than $4 billion in humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey and in other countries since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
The U.S has received more than 17,000 Syrian refugee referrals from the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2015, he said, but has admitted only 1,500 of them.
The number of refugees and migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa who have used Libya as a gateway to Europe exceeded 300,000 in the first seven months of the year, including almost 200,000 who landed in Greece and 110,000 in Italy, according to the U.N. Approximately 2,500 migrants or refugees have died or gone missing this year while trying to reach Europe.
As of Aug. 25, Turkey was hosting approximately 1.93 million Syrian refugees across the country, including 217,000 in 22 camps, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Turkey on Aug. 31 for providing shelter to millions of Syrian refugees and urged Europe to share the responsibility.
“Turkey has done a lot so far to address the Syrian refugee problem and continues to do so … but recent developments and refugees coming to Greece show that Turkey has also come to its limits of what it can achieve alone,” Merkel said at a Berlin news conference.
“We will have talks with Turkey on how we can help, how we can cooperate,” she added.
Germany is expecting to receive 800,000 asylum applications by the end of the year, four times the number of last year.
Merkel also criticized Slovakia, where the government has said it will only accept Christian refugees.
Meanwhile, hundreds of migrants protested in front of Budapest’s Keleti Railway Terminus for a second straight day on Sept. 2, shouting “Freedom, freedom!” and demanding to be let onto trains bound for Germany from a station that has been closed to them.
Chaos this week at the station in the Hungarian capital has become the latest symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, the continent’s worst since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.