Europe Should Be Proud of, Not Fear, Refugees

Europe Should Be Proud of, Not Fear, RefugeesEurope Should Be Proud of, Not Fear, Refugees

The president of European Union Commission has presented his plan to tackle the refugee crisis that is dividing governments in Europe, calling on member nations to agree on a plan to take in 160,000 refugees fleeing from war and terror.

“It is the time for bold, determined action by the European Union,” Jean-Claude Juncker declared on Wednesday. “This has to be done in a compulsory way.”

“It is a matter of humanity and human dignity,” he said, adding that many Europeans themselves have been refugees at one time or another, Al Jazeera reported.

“It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. That is something to be proud of and not something to fear,” the former Luxembourg prime minister said in a marathon 80-minute speech.

In his proposal, Juncker wants 22 of the member states to accept another 120,000 people, on top of the 40,000 already agreed upon, bringing the total number to 160,000.  

Juncker, however, did not release specific number of refugees each EU member state must agree to take.  

He also warned member states not to make religious distinctions when deciding to admit refugees.

“There is no religion, there is no belief, there is no philosophy when it comes to refugees. We don’t distinguish.”

Ahead of his speech, Juncker released a statement on Wednesday offering better protection for refugees but also proposing to improve its frontier defences and deport more “illegal migrants”.

He also called for “a swift, determined and comprehensive response to the refugee crisis”.

Germany, which hosts the largest number of refugees, has already backed the idea, so has Sweden, which takes the most number of refugees in relation to its population, DW reported.

Italy, which is one of the main arrival points for thousands of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, is also in favor and so are France and Spain.

  Having another go

Less than three months ago, a plan he proposed to redistribute some 40,000 mainly Syrian and Eritrean asylum applicants across the EU was roundly rejected by member states, especially eastern European countries. They argued it could attract more migrants and destabilize countries unused to immigration.

But the attitude among some European leaders toward quotas seems to have softened in recent days. Fears have grown that the crisis may put key European principles like freedom of movement across the EU’s internal borders at risk.

In light of concerns expressed by leaders about lax controls at Europe’s frontiers, Juncker is also expected to set out plans to speed up the process of identifying “economic migrants” and deporting them.

The EU was also expected to announce a list of “safe” states whose citizens would stand next to no chance of gaining asylum and would face a “fast-track” toward deportation if denied.

  US Reaction

In Geneva, a United Nations official said it was “not enough” for countries like the US and wealthy Persian Gulf states to give money to help Syrian refugees–they should also take them in.

“Buying your way out of this is not satisfactory,” said Peter Sutherland, special representative for migration and development.

He emphasized that UN agencies working to support Syrian refugees were well short of their funding needs. Syria’s neighbors Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have taken in a combined four million Syrian refugees.

Authorities in the United States said Tuesday they were considering measures to help refugees fleeing Syria, including increasing the number of refugees the country welcomes and providing help to allies in Europe.

“The White House is going to continue to consider additional steps that we can take to help the countries that are bearing the brunt of this burden,” spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.