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14th Apr 2024

France opposes EU migrant quotas

  • Valls (r): The EU commission's plan to share asylum seekers between members states is facing growing oppostion (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

French prime minister Manuel Valls has attacked EU plans to impose quotas on migrant relocation, the latest in a series of setbacks for the European Commission proposal.

"I am against the introduction of quotas for migrants. This never corresponded to the French position," he said while visiting Menton in southern France on Saturday (16 May).

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A town on the French-Italian border, Menton has, in recent times, seen some 200 migrants a day coming from Italy en route to Britain, Germany, or Scandinavia.

According to the commission proposal, EU countries should accept numbers of asylum seekers corresponding to their population, wealth, and unemployment rate, among other factors.

France would be asked to accept 14.17 percent of all those who reach the EU, while Germany would receive 18.42 percent, Italy 11.84 percent, and Spain 9 percent.

Valls said "France has already done a lot," citing its resettlement of 5,000 refugees from Syria and 4,500 from Iraq since 2012.

"Asylum is a right, attributed according to international criteria ... That is why the number of its beneficiaries cannot be subject to quotas, one is an asylum seeker or not,” he said.

He added there should be "a European system of border controls".

France’s opposition to the commission plan follows its rejection by several other European countries.

Last week, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia said they wouldn’t accept quotas.

On Friday (15 May) they were joined by Poland, the EU’s sixth biggest country.

"We're not saying that we won't welcome migrants. We’re saying that we want to make a credible offer and so like other European colleagues, I'm in favour voluntary decisions on this issue," said Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz.

According to the plan, Poland would have to accept 5.64 percent of claimants.

For his part, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban had earlier called the EU plan “mad”.

In addition, Britain, Ireland and Denmark will not be obliged to take part, under opt-out rules granted in EU treaties.

France and other countries’ opposition to quotas will leave the commission with a political problem as it tries to satisfy "frontline" countries in the south of Europe.

Under the current rules, called Dublin II, countries of arrival are responsible for the asylum application and are expected to keep migrants on their territory until the application is reviewed.

The quota plan would help relocate migrants in case of sudden and massive influx and relieve frontline states such as Italy, Malta, or Greece.

A failure to find a solution could open a wider debate on the set-up of the Schengen area of free movement ahead of presidential elections in France in 2017.

Former president and possible candidate Nicolas Sarkozy called on Sunday for "a Schengen-2" system, saying that in the current regime "fraud is a rule rather than an exception and [that] works to the detriment of French tax-payers".

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