MEPs call for fairer system of migrant distribution

Binding quota system recommended as European Parliament backs resolution

A life jacket on a Member of the European Parliament’s desk  next to a leaflet with the slogan “I am a migrant” after a voting session including a vote on a report concerning the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean. Photograph: Reuters

A life jacket on a Member of the European Parliament’s desk next to a leaflet with the slogan “I am a migrant” after a voting session including a vote on a report concerning the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean. Photograph: Reuters

 

The European Parliament has called on the European Union to introduce a binding quota system to distribute asylum seekers across member states, in response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Following a heated debate in the parliament, MEPs passed a resolution calling for a number of measures to be implemented in the wake of this month’s sinkings, which have left more than 1,000 people dead. Among the proposals backed by MEPs are the introduction of a binding quota system, an expansion of the mandate of the naval Triton operation to include search-and-rescue operations and the establishment of a “robust and humanitarian” European rescue operation that would operate on the high seas, rather than in close to Italy.

Triton focus

Addressing the European Parliament yesterday, European Council president Donald Tusk said the EU had “no illusions” about the fact that it was facing a difficult summer. He said that tackling the people smugglers and engaging with the authorities in the countries of origin were key facets of the EU’s response.

“The best way to protect people from drowning is to ensure that they do not get on the boats in the first place,” he said. “Almost none of the migrants are Libyans. Therefore, we will help the countries around Libya – Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others – to monitor and control the land borders and travel routes.”

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness, who chaired yesterday’s debate in Strasbourg as vice-president of the European Parliament, said the issue was highly divisive for MEPs.

“Nobody believes the current status quo can be contained,” she said. “There is a sense that there must be some kind of binding quota system for asylum seekers, given the fact that a number of southern European countries unfairly share the burden.”

She added that the EU needed to prioritise development issues in tackling immigration.

Manfred Weber, head of the centre-right European People’s Party in the parliament, said that the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that migrants must apply for asylum in the country of arrival, should be revised. “The Dublin rules are not adequate. They must be changed so as to spread the burden of asylum seekers across the EU,” he said.

Resolution

Africa

Parliament president Martin Schulz urged the EU to do more to help migrants risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. “The dramatic tragedies of the last days and weeks have demonstrated once again the painful truth that the Mediterranean is the world’s deadliest border. The commitments made during last week’s extraordinary European Council are a first step, but they are not enough,” he said.