Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Juncker: Migrant quotas must be 'compulsory'

  • Juncker: "Schengen will not be abolished under the mandate of this commission"

The European Commission is proposing the emergency relocation of 120,000 migrants across Europe from Greece, Italy and Hungary, the EU executive's president Jean-Claude Juncker announced in a speech in Strasbourg on Wednesday (9 September), adding it "has to be done in a compulsory way."

In his first State of the Union address to the European Parliament, Juncker said: "Addressing the refugee crisis is a matter of humanity and human dignity, for Europe [it is] also a matter of historical fairness."

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"Action is what is needed," he noted, citing historical examples from Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and Spanish fleeing for their lives in previous crises.

He called on EU ministers of justice and home affairs to adopt the proposal on September 14 for the relocation of a total of 160,000 migrants.

Juncker said he hoped that everyone would be on board this time.

A relocation plan, presented by the Commission for 40,000 migrants in May, was only agreed upon on a voluntary basis. The plan subsequently fell far short of the target.

"Italy, Greece, and Hungary cannot be left alone to cope with the enormous challenge," Juncker added.

He recalled that 500,000 people have made their way into Europe so far this year, and pointed out that this number represents only 0.11 percent of the total EU population.

"Winter is approaching. Do we really want families sleeping in railway stations?", Juncker asked.

Besides the emergency relocation measure, Juncker announced that the European Commission is proposing a permanent relocation mechanism, which "will allow Europe to deal with crisis more swiftly in the future".

The Luxembourgish politician also announced that the Commission wants to turn Frontex, its border control agency in Warsaw, into a proper external border control and coast guard force.

He said the passport-free travel zone, Schengen, must be protected.

"Schengen will not be abolished under the mandate of this commission," Juncker said.

He said the Commission plans to set up a Trust Fund of €1.8 billion to help Africa tackle the root causes of migration, and called on all EU members to pitch in.

Other measures include the review of the so-called Dublin system, which stipulates that people must claim asylum in the state in which they first enter the EU, and lays out a common list of safe countries of origin to process economic migrants more swiftly.

Juncker said Europe needs to open legal channels of migration.

"We are an ageing continent, migration must change from a problem, to a well managed resource,” he said, adding that asylum-seekers should be allowed to work while awaiting the completion of their asylum process.

Juncker announced that the Commission will present a common refugee and asylum policy in early 2016, and reiterated that member states need to adhere to existing common asylum mechanisms.

"It is a matter of credibility," he said, adding that, before the summer, the Commission launched 32 proceedings to force EU members to uphold European standards and that more investigations are under way.

Hungary struggling to register all migrants

Hungary is trying to register all migrants in line with EU law, but struggling to cope with huge numbers and with people who refuse to take part in registration.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

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