29th Sep 2023

Germany sets example on EU migrants

Germany has taken a moral lead to the EU’s refugee crisis as it welcomes thousands on a daily basis and sets aside €6 billion in asylum relief funds.

Around 18,000 people seeking refuge arrived in Germany from Austria over the weekend. Some 10,000 went to the southern German city of Munich and were greeted by cheering crowds of locals.

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“I am not really thinking about how many people can we afford and can we take here in Munich. That is not the question”, Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter told reporters on Sunday (6 September).

Germany’s ruling coalition said state and local governments will receive €3 billion to help accommodate arrivals. Another €3 billion will be put aside to pay for other expenses like benefits.

Germany is expected to receive around 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

Munich’s weekend spike arrived after Austria relaxed asylum transit restrictions with Hungary. Stranded refugees in Hungary were allowed to board buses and trains to Austria.

A caravan of some 140 cars driven by volunteers from Germany and Austria also helped.

But the opened policy is now set to end in “step by step” process, Austria’s chancellor Werner Faymann said on Sunday.

Faymann, who spoke to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orgban, said the move is needed to “ensure the common security of the (European Union's) external borders, safeguard fair asylum procedures and achieve a fair distribution of asylum seekers by means of a European quota.”


Germany and France are pushing for a more equitable distribution of asylum seekers. Both back imposing a mandatory quota on how many each member state should accommodate.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is set to announce on Wednesday a new plan to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers from Greece, Italy and Hungary. All three are a main point of entry into the EU for people seeking asylum.

Leaked documents of Juncker’s plan published in the De Volkskrant newspaper indicate that France and Germany will take in the most with 24,031 and 31,443, respectively, followed by Spain (14,931), and Poland (9,287).

Malta will take in the fewest at 133, followed by Cyprus (274), and Estonia (373).

No figures are given on the United Kingdom, which opted out in a similar plan proposed over the summer to relocate 40,000.

UK and US criticism

Last week, UK prime minister David Cameron announced they are ready to accept thousands of Syrians refugees and increase development aid to Syria.

But Cameron’s plan has come under attack.

British centre-left MEP Claude Moraes, who heads the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, said it means the UK won’t participate in the 120,000 relocation scheme.

“[It] is a clear signal that the UK wishes to continue opting out of a co-coordinated response to the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War”, said Moraes in a statement.

Criticism has also been directed at the United States.

"The United States has always been a leader in refugee resettlement but 1,500 people over four years is such a miniscule contribution to tackling the human side of this problem,” said former British foreign secretary David Miliband, who now heads the International Rescue Committee.


Europe’s values vacuum

Certain EU leaders should show the same values of equality and respect for human rights on which the EU is predicated, when dealing with the migrant crisis.

EU Ombudsman warns of 'new normal' of crisis decision-making

Emily O'Reilly cited the post-pandemic recovery funds, the windfall taxes on energy companies, and the joint purchase of vaccines, as procedures which received limited scrutiny from the national parliaments — as a result of emergency decision-making powers that bypassed parliament.

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