Germany and France have volunteered to between them take in more than one third of the 60,000 asylum seekers that the European Commission wanted placed across Europe after many states objected strongly to mandatory quotas.
Around 40,000 mostly Syrians and Eriteans are already in Europe waiting to be granted asylum status, while a further 20,000 are waiting in camps in Syria. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his German counterpart Thomas De Maiziere have now announced that France will be taking 9,100 and Germany 12,100, The Local has reported.
Cazenueuve told reporters that it was the “duty” of the two countries “to offer a dignified welcome to those with refugee status.”
He added that the countries had to ensure “that what we are doing out of solidarity (with other EU states) will be sustainable.”
The European Commission had hoped to allocate the migrants to EU member states, but a number of countries, including the UK, objected. Spain and Austria have in the last few days declined to confirm what their contribution to the quota will be.
De Maiziere told reporters in Luxembourg “there are some countries which have problems with the concept and are afraid it will only encourage [more migrants to come]”.
However, the officially sanctioned 60,000 are just the tip of the iceberg. More than 185,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean illegally to claim asylum in Europe in the first three months of 2015 alone.
The vast majority have landed on the shores of Italy and Greece, prompting those countries to turn to their neighbours for help, and provoking bad feeling between the EU’s member states. When, at a June summit on the crisis, EU leaders agreed to drop the idea of mandatory quotas, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi reportedly shouted “If that is your idea of Europe, you can keep it!”
But in fact figures from the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat show that Germany has already taken in the largest number of migrants in absolute terms, processing 73 120 asylum applications, nearly 40 percent of the EU total, in the first quarter of 2015 alone. Hungary welcomed the second largest figure – 32 810 – and also topped the chart for taking in the highest number of migrants per head of current population.
Work has begun in Hungary to construct a 109 mile long “iron curtain” along the country’s border with Serbia to stem the flow of migrants into the country.