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Saturday 10 December 2016

EU refugee quota scheme unravels

Published 08/05/2015 | 12:56

Migrants are seated, surrounded by emergency relief workers, on a vessel at the Italian port of Messina. (AP)
Migrants are seated, surrounded by emergency relief workers, on a vessel at the Italian port of Messina. (AP)

European Union plans to introduce a quota system obliging countries to share the burden of settling refugees unravelled today as member nations began rejecting the scheme.

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Slovakia and Estonia were among those to publicly object to a quota system, which would require unanimous agreement among the 28 EU nations.

"The Slovak Interior Ministry currently refuses binding quotas on migrants," it said in a statement.

Estonia said it prefers voluntary relocation and resettlement for refugees.

The European Commission was aiming to propose the plan next Wednesday as part of a strategy to cope with thousands of migrants fleeing conflict for better lives in Europe.

A handful of countries including Germany, Sweden and France are struggling under the massive migrant influx and quotas were seen as one way to enforce solidarity on their reluctant EU partners.

"We need a binding solidarity mechanism that allows for the fair distribution of asylum seekers among member states once a certain threshold has been reached," said a lead EU policymaker on migration, Roberta Metsola.

"This is not a challenge that Italy or Malta or Greece should face alone."

EU leaders paid lip service to the notion of burden-sharing earlier this month at a hastily called summit meant to address migrant deaths in the Mediterranean.

More than 10,000 migrants have been rescued recently in a virtual flotilla of unseaworthy boats. About 1,700 are feared dead.

EU leaders offered short-term use of ships, planes and other assets to help stem the tide, as well as extra funding for the EU border effort.

But away from the media spotlight, weak economies, public opposition to migration and election campaigns mean that real solidarity remains elusive.

Press Association

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