Monday, 21 September 2009

EU ministers debate resettlement program for refugees and asylum seekers

European duty to ''welcome those victims of persecution'' and be ''a continent of asylum'' are outlined as EU ministers start debating new resettlement policy.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (SEPTEMBER 21, 2009)EBS - EU justice and home affairs ministers debated on Monday (September 21) a new resettlement policy to harmonize EU laws on refugees and asylum seekers.
Resettlement means that refugees who have temporary protection in the country in which they first arrived may move to another country where they can receive permanent protection.

Sweden, who is holding the six-months rotating EU presidency, said the resettlement policy is one its priority though it warned there was ''no quick fix''

''There is no quick fix for that problem I am afraid and we also have to think about that problem in short and long term. However, by offering a resettlement program, we will be able to deal with some of the problems,'' Swedish minister for migration and asylum Tobias Billstroem said as he arrived for the meeting.

Ministers are studying new proposals by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. The Commission said the new resettlement policy will identify common priorities to help the most vulnerable populations and it proposed that member states accepting migrants to be resettled within their border will get 4,000 euros ($5,849) per person resettled.

''The program will not only have an impact on the individual beneficiaries but it will also alleviate the pressure that some third countries that host major refugee population feels today,'' Billstroem said, referring to countries like Syria who is hosting a great number of Iraqi refugees.

The EU Commission also wants to develop cooperation with the United Nations for High Refugees Commissioner (UNHCR), the International Office for Migration (IOM) and non-governmental organisations dealing with immigration and create a greater solidarity between EU member states.

Countries at the border of the European Union like Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain or Italy say they are dealing with an increase in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. They want other EU nations to show more solidarity and help them resettle migrants outside their own borders and within the European Union.

Jacques Barrot, EU Commission vice-president in charge of immigration, and the UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said some values need to be respected when dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.

''There are about ten millions refugees in the world and 750,000 are waiting for resettlement. We therefore have to face those demands which need to be understood in the light of European values, those values which mean it's a duty for Europeans to welcome those who are victims of persecution throughout the world,'' Barrot said.

''We remain confident that Europe is and shall go on being a continent of asylum. It's very important that Europe grants access to European territory for bona-fide asylum seekers and a fair treatment of their claims,'' Guterres said.

Immigration is a hot topic in the EU.

In Italy, the first landing-point in Europe for many migrants from Africa, migrants face detention under legislation passed in July making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant or help one.

In France, the government has vowed to close an illegal migrants' camp in Calais by the end of this week. The camp, known as ''The jungle'' has been the jumping off point for hundreds of asylum seekers bound for the UK.

The European Union is set to issue new immigration policy proposals by the end of October.