Greater burden sharing

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – The European Union will present proposals in September on reforming its immigration policy, Sweden said yesterday amid a rising wave of refugees risking their lives to flee across the Mediterranean. The proposals concern a so-called «relocation» policy, whereby refugees who land on the shores of the Mediterranean would be transferred to other EU member states, as well as a more efficient asylum policy, Swedish Immigration Minister Tobias Billstroem told AFP. The EU member states’ application of the proposed policies would be voluntary, added Billstroem, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency. «This relocation project is to be presented in September by the vice president of the [European] Commission, Jacques Barrot,» who is also EU justice commissioner, the Swede said. Regarding the asylum policy reform, which is aimed at establishing refugee quotas in the EU, «we’re waiting for a proposal from the Commission in September as well.» More than 67,000 people crossed the Mediterranean in 2008 to try to enter Europe illegally, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and some of those have died at sea. Last week, five Eritrean migrants rescued off the Italian island of Lampedusa said 73 other migrants had perished during the crossing from Libya and that their bodies had been dumped at sea. Italy, Malta, Spain and Greece have asked the European Union to help them share the burden of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, usually via Turkey and Libya.