France, Spain reject EU plan for migrant quota system
Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30
AN EU plan to distribute migrants via a quota system appeared to lie in tatters yesterday, when France said there was "no question" of enacting the proposal and Spain criticised the plan.
French President François Hollande dismissed the quota plan days after the European Commission unveiled a proposal calling for asylum grants for 20,000 refugees in Europe over the coming years.
Under Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's plan, each EU country should accept their fair share of asylum seekers based on factors such as that country's population, GDP, unemployment rates and the country's history of granting asylum.
Along with Italy, Germany and Austria, France initially appeared to back the proposals, with its interior minister even saying they were "inspired by the propositions made by France".
But in a joint press conference with Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, Mr Hollande said: "There is no question of having immigrant quotas because we already have rules governing border checks and immigration controls".
He added: "The right to asylum does not correspond to a quota."
Britain, which has an opt-out, was the first to oppose the quota idea, when Theresa May, the Home Secretary, declared last week that the UK "will not participate in a mandatory system of resettlement or relocation" as it would encourage "evil" people traffickers.
Under the plan, it was estimated that the number of people seeking asylum in Britain could have more than doubled from about 30,000 to above 60,000.
France would be asked to take in 14.17pc of all asylum seekers to reach the EU, second only to Germany at 18.42pc. Italy, at just under 12pc and Spain at 9pc were close behind.
Spain has now also poured cold water over the plan, with foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo saying his country's unemployment rate of almost 24pc meant it could not help. "Pledging to take in migrants to whom you cannot provide work would be, in my opinion, providing a bad service," he said.
Italy reacted to the development with alarm, warning its European partners against betraying the scheme.
"It would be very bitter if there was a U-turn in that availability to share and turn the problem from an Italian into a European problem," said Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni.
"There is no turning back at this point, otherwise Europe would not be living up to its own standards," he added.
European leaders have pledged to help rescue efforts in the Mediterranean after around 750 migrants drowned last month as they tried to reach Italy from Libya.
On Monday, the EU also agreed to deploy a military mission to destroy boats used by migrants in an operation in which Britain's Royal Navy will play a major role.
The agreement between EU foreign ministers hinges on securing a United Nations mandate. Libya's official government has said it opposes any military operation to destroy boats, saying such a move is "inhumane".