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23rd Feb 2019

EU to propose new refugee law

The European Commission will next week present a new plan to resettle refugees from outside the EU to member states.

The proposal is part of a larger package on migration and asylum, that will also be adopted.

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Speaking to reporters in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Thursday (7 July), EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the EU needs to take its "fair share" of refugees.

He said the commission wants "a structured common system to pool European resettlement efforts more systematically."

Over 16 million people are registered as refugees by the UN's agency for refugees. Many are under 18 years of age.

The figure is dwarfed by some 65.3 million people that have been forced to leave their homes.

Last year, member states agreed to a two year plan to resettle 22,504 refugees from camps in the Middle East, northern Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

They also backed a migrant swap deal with Turkey in March that includes resettling Syrian refugees.

But as of last month, only around 7,200 refugees have so far landed in the EU. Most ended up in the UK, followed by Austria.

Unifying rules

Slovakia, which now heads the rotating EU presidency, has resettled some 50 Christians from Iraq.

Avramopoulos' latest proposal comes ahead of a special UN meeting on migration and refugees in mid-September in New York.

Details of the new scheme are sparse.

But a communication circulated by the commission in April said it will set out EU rules for "admission and distribution".

Avramopoulos didn't expand on the plan but an EU official said the idea is to have one set of resettlement rules throughout the EU.

"Member states have their own procedures for resettlement, which means you can have 28 different systems," said an EU commission official.

The plan is to have one common system by all EU states, including procedures on how to resettle people.

No quotas

Numbers for each member state won't be proposed yet. Instead the plan next week will only spell out specific procedures for deciding figures for refugee distribution.

Dividing up people in need of protection among member states has posed problems in the past.

Slovakia has opposed similar quotas to relocate people in need of international protection that have arrived in Greece and Italy.

Relocation is different from resettlement.

Resettlement concerns UN registered refugees who are living in camps like in Jordan and are then brought to Europe. Relocation deals with people who already arrived in the EU, like in Greece or Italy, and then seek asylum.

Slovakia, for its part, is supposed to relocate several hundred people. As of earlier this month, not one person has been sent to the country.

Along with Hungary, Slovakia has launched a legal challenge at the European Court of Justice on the one-off mandatory quota to help Greece and Italy.

The commission will also next week propose reforms to its EU asylum laws like the directives on reception conditions, qualification, and procedures.

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