All 120,000 refugee relocations from Italy, Greece

UNHCR says EU plan insufficient, OECD sees 1 mn arrivals

(ANSA) - Rome, September 22 -

European Union ambassadors have proposed relocating all 120,000 migrants slated for resettlement from just Italy and Greece with the possibility of changes if other countries should need them, EU sources said Tuesday. The total would include 54,000 Hungary has refused, the sources said. The proposal was made ahead of a meeting Tuesday of EU interior ministers on mandatory migrant quotas that eastern European countries have so far rejected and an extraordinary summit of government leaders on Wednesday.
    In the end, the EU interior ministers approved the plan on migrant quotas by qualified majority, given the impossibility of reaching a unanimous accord.
    Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against while Finland abstained.
    German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on his way in to the ministers' meeting that the Union must find agreement. "It would be unacceptable if we ended up sending the message that it is impossible for Europe to find a solution," he said. Italy and Greece have long been bearing the brunt of the Mediterranean migrant crisis.
    Both nations have agreed to set up EU hotspots to register asylum seekers and speed up the handling of claims, after allegations from EU partners that these were not being handled effectively and too many arrivals were being lost track of. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano responded to news of the opening of an EU infraction procedure against Rome on migrant registration Tuesday by saying: "I think the procedure Europe should open is a procedure of thanks to Italy" for its efforts on the migrant and refugee crisis. The OECD said in a report Tuesday that Europe will probably record more than one million asylum applications in 2015 and called for the EU to agree on decisive action. "The human cost of this refugee crisis is appalling and countries need to quickly agree a fair allocation of refugees within Europe, and ensure that such vast numbers of troubled people receive shelter, food and support," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria. "We need to scale-up and adapt programmes so that refugees can integrate as quickly as possible in their new homes and make best use of their skills. We should all remember that migration is not a liability, but an asset".
    Those sentiments were echoed by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, which said the EU plan to redistribute asylum seekers among member States was not enough. The agency added that Wednesday's meeting of EU leaders in Brussels could be the last opportunity to provide a "coherent response". It said that 477,906 people have arrived in Europe via sea so far this year, an average of 6,000 a day. UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said that, as a result, "large-scale investments" are necessary.
    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed that the union was not doing enough to help refugees, above all, those escaping the conflict in Syria.
    "Given the size of the problem, 120,000 refugees is ridiculous," Juncker said.
    "I wonder if the Lebanese and the Jordanians, who have taken in millions, understand what we are talking about.
    "This is not the time for business as usual".
    Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, meanwhile, said Tuesday the migrant and refugee crisis facing Europe should be seen not as a "daily emergency" but as a "medium to long-term phenomenon" that should be managed "without spreading fear or illusion". Gentiloni also criticised Hungary for its anti-migrant stance. "Hungary's behaviour towards the migrants is terrifying," the minister said. "It is almost a slap in the face to those of us who believed in the enlargement of the European Union."