Lords call on the Government to participate in the relocation of migrants within the EU
The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has published a short report calling on the Government to participate in the negotiation of a proposed scheme to relocate asylum seekers, provided that the European Commission either amends its existing proposal or drafts a new one in line with the Conclusions of the European Council of 25 June.
For the first time, the European Commission has triggered an emergency response mechanism in order to assist Italy and Greece - who are bearing the brunt of dealing with the large number of migrants entering the EU from the Mediterranean - by setting up a two-year scheme to relocate 40,000 migrants to other Member States in accordance with a quota. Only asylum seekers who come from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea will be eligible for relocation. Over 75% of migrants from these countries are successful in claiming asylum status. The scheme is temporary and conditional on both Italy and Greece taking concrete steps to improve the screening and reception of migrants landing on their shores.
Since the Commission published its proposal, the European Council of 25 June agreed that the Council of Ministers should adopt a relocation scheme which would be agreed “by consensus” of all participating Member States. This appears to reject the Commission's mandatory model. In its report, the Committee argues that, should the Commission amend its proposal or bring forward another one in line with the Council's Conclusions, the UK should fully take part in its negotiation.
The proposal is subject to the UK's justice and home affairs opt-in and so will not apply to the UK unless the Government chooses to opt into it. Previous Governments have undertaken not to take such decisions until Parliament has had an opportunity to hold a debate. The Prime Minister has already stated that he will not participate in the negotiation of this scheme. Nonetheless, the short report, The United Kingdom opt-in to the relocation of migrants within the EU, has been published in order to allow time in the House to debate the report, ahead of the opt-in deadline for the UK Government, on Thursday 27 August.
Committee Chairman, Baroness Prashar, said:
“We cannot ignore the current crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean, and the pressure being placed on the governments of Italy and Greece. Italy saw 277% more irregular border crossings in 2014 than in 2013, and in Greece the increase was 153%. Genuine collective European action is needed.
“The European Commission proposed a scheme to relocate 40,000 third country migrants from Italy and Greece to other Member States. These are not economic migrants. The vast majority are refugees who have fled civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.
“The heads of government of the 28 Member States accepted, at the European Council of 25 June, the principle that these 40,000 migrants should be relocated, but the United Kingdom has said that it is minded not to participate in the scheme.
“The EU Select Committee report, ‘The United Kingdom opt-in to the proposed Council Decision on the relocation of migrants within the EU', urges the UK Government to play its part in this scheme. Whatever the legal and technical arguments about the UK ‘opt in', in the end this turns on the fundamental principle of solidarity and burden sharing between Member States, and on the urgent need to confront a humanitarian crisis happening now within the EU's borders."