22nd Oct 2016

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.

"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.

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