TOVARNIK, Croatia (AP) – European Union lawmakers have backed an EU plan to distribute 120,000 migrants among member countries in a fast-track measure aimed at relieving migration pressure on Greece, Italy and Hungary.
The move in the European Parliament on Thursday means that EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels next Tuesday will be able to approve the plan if they can overcome opposition from a group of Eastern European nations.
The migrant-sharing scheme drawn up by the EU’s executive Commission was approved in an emergency vote by 372 ballots in favor, 124 against and 54 abstentions.
Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans thanked the parliament and said the migrant emergency challenges Europe “on a political level, on a humanitarian level and I would even say on a moral level.”
The German government says the head of the country’s immigration authority is stepping down for personal reasons, a move that comes as the country is struggling to cope with a flood of refugees and other migrants.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement Thursday that it had accepted the resignation of Manfred Schmidt, the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. It gave no further details on Schmidt’s decision.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere thanked Schmidt for his “extraordinary work” at an extremely difficult time. He did not immediately announce a replacement.
Germany says it is expecting some 800,000 migrants to arrive this year, with some estimates as high as 1 million — around five times last year’s total.
The European Union’s migration commissioner is urging Hungary to working with the bloc to alleviate the continent’s migration crisis, and says that walls and violence are no solution.
Dimitris Avramopoulos also urged compassion for the migrants, noting that most of them are Syrians fleeing war.
He spoke in Budapest on Thursday, a day after baton-wielding Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannons on hundreds of migrants after a group pushed open a gate at the now-sealed border with Serbia.
Avramopoulos said “the majority of people arriving in Europe are Syrians. They are people in genuine need of our protections. There is no wall you would not climb, no sea you wouldn’t cross if you are fleeing violence and terror. I believe we have a moral duty (to) offer them protection.”