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23rd Sep 2018

EU states must take many more refugees, warn MEPs

  • Lebanon hosts more refugees, when compared to its population size, than any other country (Photo: Oxam International)

EU countries will need to take many more refugees if the migration crisis in the Middle East is to be eased, according to a group of MEPs on a visit to Lebanon.

British socialist Claude Moraes, who chairs the EU parliament committee on civil liberties, said a refugee distribution key, which sets how many people are resettled to each EU state, is needed for the plan to work.

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"I hope there will be a distribution key and I hope there will be a stronger kind of direction in the legislation," he told EUobsever by phone from Beirut on Wednesday (21 September).

Moraes said EU humanitarian and development aid in the region is not enough and that EU states needed to resettle more asylum seekers.

The EU commission in July floated a proposal to better resettle refugees from outside the EU to member states.

The plan omitted distribution keys and binding quotas as result of the political backlash from states like Hungary and Slovakia over similar previous plans.

Even the voluntary scheme is likely to meet stiff resistance. A Hungarian spokesperson told reporters earlier this week that a "voluntary system is a bad idea".

But German Green Ska Keller, also speaking from Beirut, said the Commission's proposal is weak and needs mandatory targets.

"There is nothing binding in there. There is no minimal number, there is no scheme of how many are to be resettled," she said.

She also said the EU commission had changed the criteria, initially set by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), on which refugees are the most vulnerable.

"This is a big problem, even from a diplomatic point of view. All of a sudden you say no we don't want to have anything to do with the UNHCR any more, we do our own thing. It is not a smart move," said Keller.

Lebanon hosts some one million Syrian refugees on top of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that have been living in camps for decades.

It has more refugees per capita than any other country.

Lebanon, which shares a long border with Syria, saw its population jump from around 4.5 million before war to almost 6 million today.

The MEPs' visit coincides with announcement of a pledge by 50 nations to take in 360,000 refugees at refugee summit in New York on Monday.

President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly that the United States would take some 110,000 new refugees for 2017.

The EU commission announced €40 million of emergency humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Balkan leaders pledge to keep out migrants

Balkan leaders said in New York there would be no repetition of last year's mass influx of refugees, as the EU prepares to launch a new border force to keep people out.

Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate

Issues of sovereignty remain entrenched following a proposal by the European Commission to expand the EU's border and coast guard, also known as Frontex, to 10,000. But EU leaders maintain a "basic consensus" of support had been reached.

EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

EU council president Donald Tusk wants to discuss deepening relations with authoritarian Egypt, as a model of migrant reduction, with EU heads of state and government at a meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Wednesday.

Analysis

EU to shore up borders, returns and migrant detentions

The European Commission wants more border controls, detentions and returns for rejected asylum seekers. The harsh tone is part of a broader anti-migrant mood. "We are treated like rats," one asylum seeker stuck on a Greek island told this website.

Visual Data

Europeans also seek EU asylum

Every year, almost 100,000 Europeans seek asylum in EU countries. The number of applications continues to grow, but the issue remains on the margins of political debate.

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