EU proposes migrant plan for willing members

An installation made of barbed wire and life jackets of Middle Eastern migrants at Johanneskirche in Germany yesterday. Europe is struggling to deal with an overwhelming migrant influx in the past two years.
An installation made of barbed wire and life jackets of Middle Eastern migrants at Johanneskirche in Germany yesterday. Europe is struggling to deal with an overwhelming migrant influx in the past two years. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BRUSSELS • The European Union (EU) authorities, seeking to balance the scale of the migration crisis with the reluctance of some countries to take in refugees, put up a series of proposals yesterday that would give member states more latitude while offering them €10,000 (S$15,000) for each refugee they accept.

Europe has struggled to come up with a cohesive plan to deal with the more than one million migrants who have reached Europe in the past two years, and the proposals from the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, reflect a renewed effort to impose clearer rules for both countries and migrants.

The commission proposed a common procedure for resettling refugees from camps in countries outside the bloc, like Turkey, that would give member states the option of joining together to decide the overall number of people to take in and how to spread out the refugees among those nations.

That represents a form of solidarity among the willing, though it is unlikely to include countries like Hungary and Slovakia that have resisted taking in more migrants, and it falls short of a mandatory system that would be applied across the EU.

A separate mandatory programme to relocate asylum seekers who have used clandestine routes to enter the bloc has fallen far short of expectations. Member states were unwilling to share the burden of the huge migrant influx, and just 3,000 migrants out of an intended 160,000 have been relocated.

Under the terms of the new proposal, which formalises some existing temporary measures, the voluntary system would be supported by a cash incentive to resettle migrants from camps outside the EU. The rules need approval from EU governments and the European Parliament before becoming law.

The figure of €10,000 was previously available to member states that accepted refugees from outside the bloc under a temporary two-year system for 22,000 people set up last year. About 8,000 refugees have benefited from that programme.

The bloc has been overhauling its asylum and migration rules in the wake of a major crisis last year, when huge numbers of migrants arrived from Africa and the Middle East. Many travelled through Turkey and crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece before settling in Germany.

The proposals were directed at both member states and migrants, with measures intended to deter those registered as asylum seekers in one state from leaving for another, said Mr Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration.

The European Union requires migrants to register for asylum in the first country they reach in the bloc. Many have been forced to register in Greece - the most popular landing point - even though they would rather go elsewhere.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'EU proposes migrant plan for willing members'. Print Edition | Subscribe