EU plan to resettle 20,000 migrants from south

European Commission set to adopt a draft text that proposes a distribution of migrants who haven't yet entered Europe using a formula that takes into account the size of the population in the receiving country

The European Union may accept up to 20,000 refugees a year and set up an automatic redistribution programme for migrants from southern European states, under plans currently being developed in Brussels.

The Wall Street Journal said that a draft text due to be adopted by the European Commission, was proposing a distribution among EU states of people who haven’t yet entered the bloc, using a formula that takes into account the size of the population in the receiving country, the strength of the economy and unemployment rates in each country, as well as the number of refugees they have taken in so far.

The 16-page ‘European Agenda for Migration’ comes in response to the refugee crisis Europe is facing, after thousands of migrants died in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

Under the plan, up to some 20,000 refugees would be resettled through a €50 million fund in 2015-16.

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker is the main driver behind this initiative, which has the backing of the German government, two EU diplomats told the WSJ.

Germany and Sweden have so far taken the bulk of refugees in Europe and insist that a “voluntary system” doesn’t mean other countries should shirk their responsibilities.

But the programme wouldn’t be binding for the UK, Ireland and Denmark, which have opted out of the EU asylum system.

With more boats expected to cross the Mediterranean this summer, the Commission says that by the end of May it will propose emergency measures, including a “distribution mechanism for persons in clear need of international protection to ensure a fair and balanced participation of all member states to this common effort,” the draft reads.

Later, by the end of 2015, the Commission plans to propose legislation “for a mandatory and automatically triggered relocation system to distribute those in clear need of international protection within the EU when a mass influx emerges. The scheme will take account of the efforts already made on a voluntary basis by member states,” according to the draft plan.

These plans are subject to approval by national governments, many under pressure from anti-immigrant, populist opposition parties, for example Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. “The idea that somebody allows some refugees in their own country and then distributes them to other member states is mad and unfair,” he said in an interview on state radio on Friday.

Orban supports EU plans to destroy traffickers’ boats and prevent migrants from leaving North African shores.

The Commission plan also suggests setting up a “pilot multipurpose centre” in Niger, together with the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations, to provide “a realistic picture of the likely success of migrants’ journeys, and offer assisted voluntary return options for irregular migrants.”

An additional €60 million in emergency funding would be allocated from the EU budget, “to support the reception and health care system of member states under particular pressure”, based on an evaluation of needs currently being worked on.

The Commission is also proposing a review of the EU’s Blue Card, “looking at issues of scope such as covering entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in Europe, or improving the possibilities for intra-EU mobility for Blue Card holders.”

As a longer-term plan, the commission also wants to centralise applications by economic migrants into an “EU-wide pool of qualified migrants, accessible to both employers and member states’ authorities – but with the actual selection and the admission procedure remaining national, based on Member States’ actual labour market needs.”

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