BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU on Wednesday asked its member states to admit over the next two years 40,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea who have already landed in Italy and Greece.
“We... have a proposal for an emergency mechanism to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers to other European (member) states,” home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference.
“Syrians and Eritreans will be relocated from Italy and Greece to other European Union member states over a period of two years,” he said.
Repeating an earlier proposal, Avramopolous said the European Union is also asking member states to admit 20,000 people from third countries who have “a clear need for international protection”. “They will be resettled from countries outside Europe to European Union member states.”
He insisted that the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, was not proposing a quota system for distributing people.
Many member states, who are under pressure from anti-immigrant parties during tough economic times, have strongly objected to quotas.
“It’s up to each member to decide how many refugees they will grant refugee status,” he added. “If countries want to relocate or settle more, they can, but we want to insure minimum solidarity,” Avramopoulos said.
The EU was prodded into action after nearly 800 migrants died in April in the deadliest such shipwreck in the Mediterranean.
More than 5,000 migrants, many escaping civil war in Syria, have died over the past 18 months while trying to cross the Mediterranean, often on flimsy rubber dinghies or fishing boats.