Europe’s migrant crisis: Roundup, September 23

European Union leaders are gathering on September 23 2015 for an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss the next steps after interior ministers agreed to a plan to distribute 120 000 migrants among the 28 nations in the EU.

The plan is designed to reduce strain on EU states at the eastern edge of the bloc, which have been handling a flood of incoming migrants in recent months, many of them trying to escape violence in Syria or Afghanistan.

Due to objections from Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Romania, the deal was passed by majority rather than unanimous vote among EU interior ministers.

“It is necessary for EU countries to retain their sovereignty in this matter,” Czech Republic Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said. “It must be the governments who will decide.”

At a news conference following the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said “This decision is an important and essential building block in what is a much larger approach that we will have to take. Today´s decision will not solve the crisis but without it we would not have been in the possibility to take the next steps.”

Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said “Together with 40 000 from last week’s Council decision, we are now able to relocate a total of 160 000 refugees from member states that are under pressure. This is an historic moment for migration policy at European level.”

The European Commission on September 23 set out a set of priority actions to be taken within the next six months. EC President Jean-Claude Juncker will present these to European heads of state and government at the summit on September 23.

Juncker said: “The decision to relocate 160 000 people from the most affected Member States is a historic first and a genuine, laudable expression of European solidarity. It cannot be the end of the story, however. It is time for further, bold, determined and concerted action by the European Union, by its institutions and by all its member states.”

The September 23 European Council meeting is expected to deal with strengthening the EU’s external borders and aiding non-EU nations, such as Turkey, that are also under strain from the pressure of incoming migrants, the Voice of America reported.

The European Commission said on September 23 that it had adopted 40 infringement decisions against several member states – Bulgaria among them – for failing to fully implement legislation making up the Common European Asylum System.

Following up on the second implementation package of the European Agenda on Migration, the European Commission is stepping up its efforts to ensure the full application of EU law in the area of migration and asylum, the EC said.

The pieces of legislation concerned focus on fairer, quicker and better quality asylum decisions (the Asylum Procedures Directive); ensuring that there are humane physical reception conditions (such as housing) for asylum seekers across the EU (the Reception Conditions Directive); and clarifying the grounds for granting international protection (the Qualification Directive), the EC said.

As European Union interior ministers negotiated a deal on quotas for migrants, scuffles broke out at a temporary reception center in Croatia for those transiting to northern Europe, VOA said.

The makeshift center was quickly overwhelmed by thousands arriving via Serbia. The refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa demanded quick registration and transit through Hungary.

“This morning we had 1,600 people at the camp,” said Jelana Bikic, a Croatian police spokeswoman. “During the morning, the number of people has changed. You can see a lot of people who are waiting for registration.

Many refugees from Syria are currently in limbo in Turkey as they wait to be told whether they can travel on to the city of Edirne, on the border with Greece, Deutsche Welle reported.

The European Union is groping for ways to induce neighboring Turkey to do more to keep Syrian refugees on its territory and stop them flooding into Europe, amid deep mutual suspicion between Brussels and Ankara, Today’s Zaman said.

As a bitterly divided EU struggles to cope with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, securing cooperation of non-member Turkey is seen increasingly as central to help manage the problem.

(Photo: A woman carrying a child under a blanket walks on a muddy path in the southern Serbian town of Preševo, on the border with Macedonia. UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev)




The Sofia Globe staff

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