EU asks member states to take 40,000 Mediterranean refugees
The EU has asked its member states to take in 40,000 migrants who land over the next two years in Italy and Greece, in a bid to ease the burden on struggling southern nations.
Britain has already said it will opt out of the "relocation plan", which is designed to share the cost of soaring migrant arrivals. But it is unable to opt out of the "resettlement plan", which will see 20,000 asylum seekers who are not currently in the EU be housed within member states.
The plan will see Britain forced to accept 2,309 asylum seekers - 11.54pc of the total, and the third-highest amount.
Germany will take the lion's share, and house 3,086 people - despite the fact that Berlin already accepts more asylum seekers than any other nation. France will take the second-highest number, 2,375 people.
"Everyone who needs sanctuary should find it in Europe," said Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president. "But those who have no justified claim should be quickly identified and returned to their home country. This is essential for migration policies to be well accepted in society."
In a clause likely to alarm Rome and Athens, the 40,000 figure will only apply to migrants who arrived after April 15, or after the deal is agreed. There was no mention of how to deal with those who have already arrived, and are living in overflowing camps in the southern Mediterranean.
The 23-page draft proposal to EU governments states that 24,000 migrants from Italy and 16,000 from Greece will be moved - but that the ruling "shall apply only to persons arriving on the territory of Italy and Greece as from the exact date of entry into force" of the decision.
Italy and Greece must also commit to improving their own system of processing asylum seekers or sending them back home, and failure to do so would trigger the regulation's suspension for up to six months.
Anyone who has not been fingerprinted cannot be relocated, the draft said. The proposal could be extended to include migrants arriving in Malta.
Member states will receive €6,000 for each person relocated on their territory.
Announcing details of the controversial migrant relocation and asylum seeker settlement plans, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU home affairs commissioner, told a press conference the plan would cover people from Syria and Eritrea.
"We have a proposal for an emergency mechanism to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers to other European states," he said.
"Syrians and Eritreans will be relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU member states over a period of two years."
He did not state what would happen to the hundreds of Afghans, Sudanese and other migrants who are currently flocking to Europe's shores. (© Daily Telegraph, London)