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Juncker reprimands EU for dodging refugee crisis

| | Updated on: Sep 09, 2015

Jean Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission outlined emergency plans for European Union countries to relocate 160,000 refugees who had arrived in Italy, Greece and Hungary, across the continent, as he launched a scathing attack on the region’s un-unified handling of the crisis till now.

Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, who made his first State of the Union speech in Strasburg on Wednesday, called on member states to accept the proposal at emergency talks to be held between interior ministers on the 14th of September, stressing the urgency of acting as winter approached with little signs of regional agreement so far.

“It is clear that the Member States where most refugees first arrive – at the moment, these are Italy, Greece and Hungary – cannot be left alone to cope with this challenge,” he said, outlining plans for an emergency mechanism to relocate 120,000 people from Italy, Greece and Hungary, based on a quota system, on top of the proposal to relocate 40,000 announced in May but yet do be adopted by the region.

He attacked the unwillingness of states so far to share responsibility. “There is not enough Europe in this Union. And there is not enough union in this Union.” He pointed to the 4 million refugees who had been taken in by Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – and that refugees represented just 0.11 percent of Europe’s population, against 25 percent of Lebanon’s.

European nations had also been failing to implement common standards for the way asylum seekers were received and their applications are dealt with, with 32 infringement proceedings underway against member states since the summer, and more due. “I do not want to create any illusions that the refugee crisis will be over any time soon. It will not. But pushing back boats from piers, setting fire to refugee camps, or turning a blind eye to poor and helpless people: that is not Europe,” he said.

Juncker is also calling for asylum seekers to be able to work from the day they arrive in Europe till they are granted fully status, and the creation of a Europe-wide agreed list of countries deemed safe to return people to, in order to help fast track some applications.

Juncker’s comments divided opinion in the European Parliament. Speaking for the British Conservatives, Syed Kamall MEP warned against forcing a joint European response, insisting it was up to individual countries to carve out their plans, such as Britain’s decision to focus on the provision of aid and relief outside the EU. “Telling nations what to do – forcing a plan on them – only risks more finger pointing. It might make us feel better, but it could make this crisis worse,” he warned.

Gianni Pittella, head of the socialist and democratic alliance in the European Parliament welcomed the proposals and called for them to be adopted on the 14th. “We could have saved thousands more if some leaders had woken up years, not weeks ago - when migrants began to knock at their own doors.”

Published on January 22, 2018

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