NEWS

EU response plans on migration crisis

eu-response-plans-on-migration-crisis

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker detailed a plan to tackle the EU migrant crisis in an annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Here are elements of existing EU plans, before an emergency meeting of interior ministers on Monday:

BORDER FORCES Following the drowning of some 800 people on a single boat off Libya in April, the EU effectively reversed a sharp cutback in warships conducting search and rescue operations; since June, a naval operation has been targeting people-smugglers. Plans to roam far into Libyan waters are on hold, seeking U.N. support.

Some EU leaders have suggested a new European border force.

Germany, France and Italy proposed an EU management system for the external borders.

EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE The EU has paid for food, medicine, shelter and other needs for migrants in countries which have asked for it. Italy and Greece will get nearly half of 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion)to help with the crisis over several years.

RELOCATION Juncker renewed and enlarged a proposal rejected by states in June for them to take in quotas of asylum seekers fixed by Brussels. He proposed relocating 160,000 people over two years, up from 40,000, and from Hungary (54,000) as well as from Greece (66,400) and Italy (39,400). For now, only Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis qualify for relocation.

Those who process people's claims to refugee status would receive 6,000 euros per person, with Italy, Greece and Hungary receiving 500 euros per person relocated. The total cost is put at 780 million euros.

The Commission says once asylum seekers are relocated they have no right to move within Europe's Schengen borderless zone.

Juncker also proposed a permanent mechanism of relocation for future crises, modifying the Dublin Regulation system by which claims are handled by the first EU state reached.

Many governments, especially in the east, have opposed such a scheme, calling it diktat from Brussels and saying it may attract migrants and disrupt societies unused to immigration. An attempt to secure voluntary pledges for 40,000 fell short and Germany and France, powerful players in the bloc, have thrown their combined weight behind a mandatory distribution.

RESETTLEMENT Having rejected mandatory national quotas to take in 20,000 refugees direct from U.N. sites outside Europe, states pledged to take 22,000 in total in a two-year pilot scheme. It starts soon and may expand, in cooperation with U.N. agencies who help some 4 million Syrians as well as millions of other refugees.

Britain, the bloc's second-biggest economy, is exempt from EU asylum policies but will has said it will take in 20,000 Syrians direct from the Middle East over the next five years.

HOTSPOTS Accompanying the relocation of asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, EU agencies will staff “hotspots” in Catania and Piraeus to identify and fingerprint migrants. Northern countries complain that failure to do so has broken EU rules and let many travel over open EU borders to claim asylum in northern Europe.

Hungary, which is setting up its own “transit zones” on the border with non-EU Serbia which it has lined with fencing, has said it does not want hotspots – a key part of EU proposals to toughen up and accelerate a process of distinguishing refugees from economic migrants and speed the removal of the latter.

DEPORTATION Economic migrants whose claims for refugee status fail will be returned home more quickly. The EU is working with countries to ensure they take more people back. Juncker announced a shared EU list of seven “safe” states, notably the west Balkan states of Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Turkey. Their citizens are likely to face a “fast-track” deportation if they claim asylum in the EU.

AID The EU will use its development aid budget to reduce poverty and other factors that drive migration, to encourage governments to curb people-smuggling gangs and dissuade their citizens from migrating, and to cooperate with EU deportation procedures.

The Commission has proposed creating a 1.8 billion euro trust fund for Africa. There will be a summit with the African Union in Malta on Nov. 11-12 and with western Balkan countries in the next few weeks.

FOREIGN MISSIONS Officials have steered away from suggestions the EU should set up facilities to process asylum applications in Africa or the Middle East. Among other things, some say they could be vulnerable to attack and hard to manage. However, EU embassies are to have immigration officers to monitor migration trends.

The EU is working with international agencies in Niger to inform migrants about to head for Libya of the risks they will run and their low chances of being allowed to settle in Europe.

LEGAL MIGRATION The EU executive is reviewing schemes to issue EU visas to skilled workers as among the safe routes for immigration. It plans to bring new proposals in early 2016.

[Reuters]