EU home affairs ministers yesterday failed to reach agreement on the distribution across Europe over the next two years of the 40,000 mostly Syrian and Eritrean migrants and asylum seekers who landed in Greece and Italy. The decision on the scheme, which also covers a further 22,504 Syrian refugees yet to enter Europe, has been postponed until the end of the year.
The distribution scheme was originally proposed by the European Commission in May after the deaths of over 700 migrants on a shipwrecked boat crossing from Libya to Italy in April.
At a summit in June EU leaders called for an agreement to be finalised by the end of July but after yesterday’s meeting EU home affairs ministers could only agree to commit to the relocation of 32,256 Syrians, Eritreans, Iraqis and Somalis beginning in October.
The Telegraph reports ministers also agreed to relocate a further 22,504 Syrians currently housed in refugee camps outside the EU.
EU Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “We are almost there. The remaining 8,000 will be allocated by the end of this year, by December. I’m disappointed this did not happen today, but it was a very important step forward.”
EurActiv reports that while Spain and Poland were among the staunchest opponents of the plan, others committed to taking fewer migrants than requested, or rejected them fully. According to The Telegraph the countries most reluctant to admit migrants were Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Baltic countries and Spain. Accepting 1,900 migrants Austria’s Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, refused to commit to any asylum seekers, saying:
“Austria has become the first target country and deals with 10 times more asylum seekers’ application than Greece and Italy put together and this cannot be right.”
Spain’s Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, criticised the plan which requested he commit to accepting 4,300 migrants. He warned it will “create a pull factor” which will attract more migrants to Europe rather than stopping them from risking the sea crossing. He did, however, commit to Spain taking 1,300 migrants.
Rihards Kozlovskis, Latvia’s interior minister, said his country was reluctant to admit migrants for fear of a potential surge from nearby Ukraine. He offered to accept 200 asylum seekers and 50 migrants.
Hungary has received the EU’s highest number of asylum applications in the first quarter of 2015, according to European Union data, and was allowed an exemption from taking any asylum seekers.
The BBC reports Germany offered most places – 10,500 for asylum seekers and 1,600 for migrants – followed by France with 6,752 and 2,375 respectively. EU treaties allow the UK, Denmark and Ireland to opt out of the programme, nevertheless Ireland agreed to take 600 asylum seekers and 520 migrants while Denmark and Britain agreed to accept 1,000 and 2,200 migrants, but no asylum seekers.
The need to reach a deal is now becoming critical, as member states need to turn their attention to a second migration front.
As reported by Breitbart London yesterday the number of migrants making the land crossing over the Balkan peninsula into Central Europe is soon expected to outnumber those entering the EU by sea. Already the spike in immigration crossing from Serbia into Hungary has prompted that country’s unilateral decision to erect a border fence.