STRASBOURG: The European Union unveiled plans on Wednesday to take 160,000 refugees from overstretched border states, as the United States said it would accept more Syrians to ease the pressure from the worst migration crisis since World War II.
As fresh unrest in Hungary underscored the scale of the problem, Germany pushed Europe to go further and agree to long-term binding quotas with no limits on actual numbers to deal with a surge of asylum-seekers.
With Greece, Hungary and Italy struggling to cope, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged the continent to look to its history, ignore populist parties and take decisive action. “Now is not the time to take fright, it is time for bold, determined action for the EU,” he said.
In response to appeals for help from an increasingly strained Europe, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was studying how it can resettle more refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. “We are committed to increasing the number that we will take,” he said.
Australia said it would take an additional 12,000 refugees and several South American countries also agreed to help.
But in Europe, mandatory quotas have faced stiff opposition. On Wednesday, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said his country should not bow to pressure from Germany or France, maintaining his opposition to mandatory migrant quotas.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe needed a ‘binding’ long-term deal for the ‘fair’ sharing of the burden. “We cannot just fix a ceiling and say I don’t care about anything above that,” she told parliament.
With pressure mounting, Juncker urged EU interior ministers who are meeting next Monday to back his new plan for the relocation of 120,000 refugees from Hungary, Greece, and Italy, and a plan dating from May to relocate 40,000 others in Italy and Greece.
“It is 160,000 that Europe has to take into their arms, this has to be done in a compulsory way,” said Juncker.
Countries that refuse could face financial penalties. Britain reaffirmed Wednesday that the 20,000 Syrians it has promised to take over five years will come from refugee camps outside the EU and not other EU states.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2015.
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