EU ministers to discuss migrant quota plan

In recent weeks, naval vessels have rescued thousands of people at risk of drowning, but plans to resettle illegal migrants across Europe and break up the smuggling networks have yet to be agreed.

File photo
File photo

EU interior ministers are to discuss how to deal with tens of thousands of migrants trying to enter Europe each year by crossing the Mediterranean.

A key issue at the talks in Luxembourg is a plan to distribute asylum seekers more evenly across all 28 EU states.

The crisis has put a huge strain on Italian, Greek and Maltese resources.

But some northern and eastern European nations argue that migrants should not be forced to move to countries where they do not want to settle.

More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far this year - a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014. The majority had set sail aboard rickety, overcrowded boats from strife-torn Libya.

In recent weeks, naval vessels have rescued thousands of people at risk of drowning, but plans to resettle illegal migrants across Europe and break up the smuggling networks have yet to be agreed.

Italy and Greece - which have already seen more than 100,000 boat people arrive on their shores this year - insist other EU nations must share some of the burden.

Rome has warned that if other EU countries are not supportive Italy has a "plan B", which, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says would "first and foremost... hurt Europe".

The European Commission has said it wants to adopt "immediate measures to prevent human tragedies and to deal with emergencies".

The commission wants to relocate some 24,000 of the new arrivals in Italy and 16,000 in Greece to other EU members according to a "distribution key" that takes account of factors such as population, gross domestic product and unemployment, as well as the number of refugees already taken in.

A separate proposal would resettle 20,000 mainly Syrian refugees currently living in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

However, France and Germany - which together would be expected to receive more than 30% of the relocated refugees - have asked for "fairer burden-sharing".

They also say that greater emphasis should be placed on the number of asylum seekers already taken in.

Meanwhile, Poland has voiced its opposition to mandatory quotas, saying it is up to member states to make their own decisions.

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