In a bid to issue a solid response to a global refugee crisis, European leaders agreed to a voluntary scheme aimed at relocating 40,000 migrants arriving in Italy and Greece among the 28-nation EU bloc to ease the load on the two southern European nations, and resettling an additional 20,000 refugees mainly coming from Syria and Iraq. As EU leaders refuse to have migrant numbers dictated to them from Brussels, the compulsory quota system imposed by the EU was agreed to only on the condition of a voluntary scheme. The EU leaders also agreed to grant exclusion for Hungary, which had earlier described the migrant quota plan as absurd, and Bulgaria, one of the EU's poorest countries. "Leaders agreed that 40,000 people in need will be relocated from Greece and Italy to other states over the next two years. Interior ministers will finalize the scheme by the end of July," EU President Donald Tusk said.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi heavily criticized EU leaders over their irresponsiveness to the crisis. "If you don't agree with 40,000 refugees, you don't deserve to be called Europe," Renzi was quoted as saying to fellow EU leaders during an emotional plea at a summit in Brussels.
The EU quota plan addresses the distribution of refugees rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean. The plan is bound by complex rules: National economic output, population, unemployment rates and the number of refugees already admitted to an individual country. The quotas by percentage of the total number of people rescued have been opposed by many European countries, saying that they have already been contending with thousands of refugees.
The U.N.'s refugee agency on Friday welcomed the EU's decisions over how to handle the crisis in the Mediterranean. "This clearly is an important step along the way to finding answers to this crisis, but clearly much more will have to be done, including addressing the root causes," Adrian Edwards of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a press conference. "With regard to the proposal for the EU-wide resettlement of 20,000 refugees, the UNHCR urges member states to make concrete commitments towards this goal," Edwards said. "There needs to be a [united] response by Europe focused on the asylum priorities."
So far, European countries have been paralyzed when it comes to the migration crisis. During talks in Luxembourg on June 17, EU interior ministers disagreed over the distribution of 40,000 migrants arriving in Italy and Greece among the 28-nation bloc to ease the load on the two southern European nations. Moreover, the EU proposals have not received enough backing from EU countries.
"In all, 153,000 migrants have entered Europe by land, air and sea this year, a 149 percent jump compared to the same period last year," said Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "We expect this to be the start of a very busy summer." Some 2,600 have died or gone missing during the often-perilous sea crossing.