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Migrant crisis: EU leaders to approve disputed quota plan

EU leaders meeting in Brussels are set to approve a plan to relocate 120,000 migrants across the continent, despite fierce opposition from some members.

Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against the mandatory quota scheme.

Wednesday’s emergency summit will also focus on tightening EU borders and boosting aid to neighbours of Syria, from where many migrants come.

EU leaders have struggled to find a co-ordinated response to the crisis.

British Prime Minster David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande held talks on the eve of the meeting, saying that finding a solution to the Syrian conflict would be key to resolving the migrant crisis.

They also agreed more should be done to return migrants who do not have a genuine claim for asylum, a Downing Street spokesman said.

The UK has opted against taking part in the relocation scheme and has its own plan to resettle migrants directly from Syrian refugee camps.

US President Barack Obama said all European states should accept their “fair share” of asylum seekers, after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Analysis: Chris Morris, BBC Europe correspondent

European Council President Donald Tusk has told EU leaders that this summit should focus on policies they can implement to help each other, rather than a long list of issues to use to blame each other.

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It is both an appeal for practical progress, and an acknowledgement that the political atmosphere has become pretty toxic.

Several leaders will arrive in Brussels angry that their governments have been outvoted on the issue of relocating tens of thousands of refugees. But Mr Tusk will be keen to avoid recrimination.

Instead he wants to focus on improving the security of the EU’s external borders, and ensuring that failed asylum seekers get sent home more efficiently.

Most of all though there will be emphasis on increasing funding for UN agencies that deal with refugees in countries bordering Syria, and on closer cooperation with, and more assistance for, Turkey. It is housing more than 2m Syrian refugees, and has become the main gateway into Europe.


Migrants near the Croatian-Hungarian border
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionEU leaders are to look at how to tighten the continent’s borders
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In a rare move for an issue involving national sovereignty, EU interior ministers approved the resettlement scheme on Tuesday by majority vote rather than unanimous approval.

It will see thousands of migrants moved from Italy and Greece to other EU countries. A proposal to take 54,000 migrants from Hungary was dropped.

Finland abstained from the vote. Poland, which had originally opposed the proposal, voted for it.

Afterwards, its opponents lashed out, with Czech President Milos Zeman saying “only the future will show what a mistake this was”.

A migrant lands on the Greek island of Lesbos
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionThousands continue to land in Greece
Migrants on a train in Croatia
Image copyrightReuters
Image captionMost intend to travel north through the Balkans to Germany

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said he would rather breach the measure than accept the “diktat” of the majority.

But Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who chaired the meeting, said he had “no doubt” opposing countries would implement the measures.

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EU governments could face financial penalties for failing to implement European laws.

The UN has warned that the relocation alone would not be enough to stabilise the situation.

Close to 480,000 migrants have arrived in Europe by sea this year, and are now reaching European shores at a rate of nearly 6,000 a day.

Who are the 120,000?

  • All are migrants “in clear need of international protection” to be resettled from Italy and Greece to other EU member states
  • 15,600 from Italy, 50,400 from Greece in the first year, and a further 54,000 from those countries later dependent on the situation
  • Initial screening of asylum applicants carried out in Greece and Italy
  • Syrians, Eritreans, Iraqis prioritised
  • Financial penalty of 0.002% of GDP for those member countries refusing to accept relocated migrants
  • Relocation to accepting countries depends on size of economy and population, average number of asylum applications
  • Transfer of individual applicants within two months

Source: European Commission


map of route of many migrants
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A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.


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