The first vice president of the European Commission has said he expects the UK to take in migrants from North Africa as part of a new European Union (EU) programme.
The bloc is planning to take genuine refugees directly from nations like Libya, hoping to secure a deal where Libya would, in return, accept the immediate return of all migrants found crossing the Mediterranean.
According to the Express, Commission Vice-President Franz Timmerman refused to reveal the number of migrants nations would be expected to take, but said at a press conference:
“I would imagine that the UK would be part of this discussion, especially because resettlement from the very start has been a pivotal element in the British approach to this problem.
“And if we talk about a new resettlement pledging exercise notably from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan which we can do in conjunction with the UNHCR, this would all meet the requirements the British governments in the past have always set for doing resettlement.
— Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU) July 4, 2017
“That you work closely with the UNHCR, you identify the people who would be eligible et cetera, et cetera, and I think this is an exercise we need to do at the European level and I count on solidarity from all member states including the UK.”
Mr. Timmerman also expressed sympathy with Italy, which is taking in thousands of migrants a week arriving on its shores, and admitted the majority of those being rescued at sea are not refugees but economic migrants, saying:
“Many of the people arriving in Italy today, when scrutinised, do not have the right to international protection because they don’t flee from war or persecution.
“They seek a better life which is a noble exercise in itself but does not grant them the right to stay in the European Union.”