Thursday

18th Jan 2018

MEPs propose taking in over 200,000 refugees

  • Most of the world's refugees are hosted by poor developing countries. (Photo: Isaac Kasamani)

MEPs are demanding that the EU take in a fair share of the world's global refugees as part of a larger bid to prevent people from relying on smugglers.

Euro-deputies in the civil liberties committee on Thursday (12 October) suggested an intake of 20 percent of global annual needs, or an equivalent of around 250,000 refugees for 2017, up from the European Commission's proposed 50,000.

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Far-left Swedish MEP Malin Bjoerk, who steered the file through the committee, described the move as a step forward to create safe and legal pathways for people in need of international protection.

"This vote sends a positive message and shows that the European Parliament stands strong in its support for an EU resettlement program based on solidarity and humanitarian needs," she said.

Resettlement refers to accepting people officially recognised by the UN as refugees from countries outside of Europe.

But the vote in the committee is likely to meet stiff resistance from some EU states.

Austria's anti-immigration hardliners are tipped to win a national election on Sunday, with the 31-year old Sebastian Kurz in poll position.

Kurz is Austria's foreign minister and leads the conservative People's Party with a broad campaign mantra to "stop illegal immigration."

The issue has also seen Austria's far-right nationalist Freedom Party (FPO) gain in popularity. It is now vying for second spot along side the Social Democrats.

Austria, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), resettled some 240 people last year, almost all from Syria.

The low number reflects widely across most EU states, which currently host around 8 percent of the world's refugees.

Just under 10,000 refugees were resettled to some 17 member states in 2015. The same year, the United States resettled around 70,000.

Of the 126,000 or so resettled worldwide in 2016, just over 13,000 ended up in one EU state or another.

At the same time, Europe accounts for some 23.8 percent of the world's GDP, according to 2014 figures.

The MEPs also insisted against using refugee resettlement as leverage in EU-led migrant deals with other countries, in contrast to the EU Commission's proposal in late September.

The Commission had demanded member states resettle some 50,000 refugees from Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, and Sudan by late 2019.

But EU leaders and heads of state, in a draft conclusion of an EU summit next week in Brussels, are demanding the use of visa, trade and development aid as leverage to prevent irregular migration and to send those unwanted back to their home countries.

The draft document, published by London-based civil rights group Statewatch, also notes that the EU leaders want to apply and strengthen existing resettlement schemes.

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David Miliband heads the US-based International Rescue Committee, an international aid organisation. In an interview with EUobserver, he says the EU should take over 500,000 refugees.

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French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

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