• Syrian woman crossing the border with one-month old son on 1 May (Photo: UNHCR)

EU countries offered €6,000 per head to take in refugees

04.12.13 @ 19:37

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - The European Commission is proposing to pay EU countries €6,000 for each UN-registered refugee which they agree to resettle.

The idea, announced by the European Commission on Wednesday (4 December), is part of a package designed to stop people dying on sea crossings and being exploited by human traffickers.

It is aimed at the Syria crisis. Over 2 million Syrians are registered refugees, many of them living in overcrowded camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

The EU resettled 5,000 of them last year.

It also gave some form of asylum to 90 percent of the 20,000 or so Syrians who made their own way to Europe.

By comparison, the US resettled 50,000.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told press: "This is the single most efficient short-term measures that member states can do to help and to avoid for these very vulnerable people to take the dangerous route over the Mediterranean."

Other measures announced Wednesday include giving the EU's joint police agency, Europol, an extra €400,000 a year to target people smugglers.

The commission is to give €30 million to Italy and €20 million to other member states to improve conditions for asylum seekers.

It also says its border control agency, Frontex, needs an additional €14 million to co-ordinate sea patrols.

Frontex told this website the money would be used to expand existing operations in Greece and Italy only.

Disembarkation dispute

There are plenty of thorny questions - for instance, who takes in migrants which are rescued by Frontex? - in EU migration talks.

The commission in April put out guidelines that say whichever EU country is hosting the Frontex operation involved should take them in.

But Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain say migrants should be taken to the nearest port.

A Maltese official told EUobserver the EU guidelines "make no sense." He noted that if a Malta-hosted Frontex boat rescued someone next to Lampedusa, an Italian island, it would take them two days to reach Malta instead of dropping them off at an Italian port.

Frontex said its boats only do patrols in their host country's maritime zone.

Humanitarian visas

Another thorny question is "humanitarian visas."

EU countries generally decline to grant asylum to people who apply at their foreign consulates, a practice which leads some of them to make their own way to the EU border to file claims.

But the commission is exploring the idea of granting humanitarian visas to let people in need enter the EU legally and safely.

A commission official said member states fear creating a "pull factor," however. Malmstrom noted "there is very little enthusiasm" for the scheme.

The broad EU effort is designed to prevent disasters such as Lampedusa in October, when more than 350 people drowned.

“After Lampedusa, there were very strong words in the European Union. Still, it happened. And it is likely to happen again,” Malmstrom warned.

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