Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, May 11, 2015
As Europe struggles to address a worsening migration crisis, the executive arm of the European Union is expected this week to submit a proposal to distribute migrants across the 28-member bloc, officials said on Monday, a plan that would encounter fierce resistance from some national governments.
Tens of thousands of migrants this year have risked the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean, often on rickety boats and with fatal consequences. Last month, a vessel capsized off Italy, killing as many as 900 people.
The proposal for redistributing migrants would be based on a quota system that would take into account factors like the size of a country’s population, the state of its economy and its level of joblessness, European Union officials said.
The plan, which has not been finalized and must be approved by national governments to take effect, is being supported by Germany. Last year, the Germans fielded one-third of the 570,800 asylum claims registered in the European Union, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and they are pressing for other countries to take their share.
The countries in Southern Europe where many of the refugees land, most notably Greece, Italy and Malta, are also pushing hard for other member states to help alleviate the pressure on them.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, has argued strongly in favor of quotas since last month. “We must distribute refugees throughout the whole of Europe,” he told the European Parliament.
Last month, European leaders pledged to triple spending on border protection and approved plans to ratchet up efforts to immobilize smugglers’ boats before they can set sail. But critics and advocacy groups have criticized the European Union’s plans as too small in scope to address the scale of the immigration challenge.