Ireland to resettle 300 refugees as part of EU migrant scheme
EU programme aims to resettle 20,000 people with quotas for member states
Two of nine sub-Saharan migrants who were rescued while trying to reach Tarifa’s coast in Cadiz, Andalusia, Spain, this week. Many migrants are encouraged to undertake the sea crossing by traffickers, who charge extortionate sums. Photograph: EPA
Ireland is to resettle 300 refugees as part of a European Union resettlement programme announced yesterday but has yet to decide on whether to participate in a flagship relocation scheme for migrants who have already entered the EU.
The resettlement programme proposed yesterday aims to resettle 20,000 refugees, with each country allocated a target number via a quota system based on gross domestic product, population and other criteria.
In addition, the commission announced plans for a more contentious relocation programme for migrants who have already arrived in Europe. Ireland and Britain have opt-outs on most EU justice and home affairs legislation, so Ireland would have to opt in if it wanted to participate in the relocation scheme.
Yesterday’s announcement represents the most ambitious EU proposal on migration to date. In particular, it is the first time the EU has proposed introducing migrant quotas for member states. The commission is expected to provide more detail on its relocation proposal, including target numbers for member states, in two weeks. It will then go to the European Council for approval through the qualified-majority voting system.
Announcing the EU’s “agenda for migration” yesterday in Brussels, European Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans said it was important the EU helped those countries at the front line of the migrant crisis, adding that it was up to the UK and Ireland to decide whether to participate in the relocation scheme.
Under the commission’s resettlement scheme, up to 20,000 asylum seekers residing outside the EU would be resettled in Europe, based on the distribution key. Under the proposal, Germany will take the highest amount (3,086), followed by France (2,375) and Britain (2,309).
Ireland resettled 280 refugees from outside Europe in 2014, according to commission figures, a relatively high figure compared with other countries.
Responding to reports the European Commission is considering on-shore operations in Libya, EU high representative Federica Mogherini said the commission is not considering “boots on the ground”.
“We are not planning in any way a military intervention in Libya. It’s not in any way an option for us,” she said. “What we are planning is a naval operation . . . to dismantle the business model of the criminal operations which are trafficking and smuggling people.”
Mr Timmermans said an “effective return policy” would also form part of the EU migration strategy. “Countries who should take back people, should. Return is an integral part of our plan.”