Tuesday 6 December 2016

Ireland can 'opt-out' of housing migrants under EU quota plan

Published 13/05/2015 | 08:07

The Le Eithne - an Irish Navy vessel assisting with the ongoing refugee crisis
The Le Eithne - an Irish Navy vessel assisting with the ongoing refugee crisis

Ireland will not be obliged to join the European Union’s planned quota scheme for housing migrants.

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The European Commission has amended part of its migrant strategy in the face of opposition from a number of member states about legal aspects of the proposal.

Now the UK, Ireland and Denmark will not be required to take part in any quota scheme for housing migrants despite the surge in Mediterranean migrants.

Read More: We won't send rescued migrants home against their will, says EU

The amendment means that, under EU law, the UK and Ireland can not be compel to join the measure, and instead, will have three months to decide on whether or not to participate.

Denmark has a blanket "opt-out" from the relevant treaty clause.

Speaking on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the European Commission confirmed the changes to the “European Agenda on Migration", the policy intended to beef up the EU's laws for handling migrants.

Read More: It is no time for heel-dragging - lives are waiting to be saved

The migration policy document is to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Following opposition from some member states, most notably the UK and Hungary, the proposal to activate the “temporary protection directive”, which would have granted emergency refugee status to migrants, has been dropped.

Instead, the controversial proposal to relocate migrants who have arrived in the EU will be proposed under Article 78.3 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.

This provision allows EU members can come to the aid of each other in a migration emergency.

However neither Ireland or the UK are part of the Schengen zone - the agreement, which allows travel across the EU without the need for visas or passports.

Both countries instead maintain a Common Travel Area with passport-free travel for their citizens.

Read More: France backs migrant quotas call

The agreement, which allows travel across the EU without the need for visas or passports, does not extend across the English Channel or the Irish Sea.

Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have borne the brunt of the recent upsurge in migrants crossing the Mediterranean and have called on their EU peers to take up more of the burden.

On Tuesday, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said that EU member states granted protection to more than 185,000 asylum seekers last year, an increase of nearly 50 pc over 2013.

The United Nations estimates 60,000 people have already tried to cross the Mediterranean this year, with over 1,800 have died trying.

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