Lords debates report on the relocation of migrants within the EU
On Wednesday 22 July, the House of Lords will debate a short report published by the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee calling on the Government to participate in the negotiation of a proposed scheme to relocate asylum seekers.
On 27 May 2015, the European Commission proposed a two-year scheme to relocate 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other Member States. Only migrants from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea will be eligible for relocation as over 75% of migrants from these countries are successful in claiming asylum status.
The Commission's proposal contains a mandatory quota for the distribution of relocated migrants across the EU, which is opposed by several Member States including the UK. The proposal will not apply to the UK unless the Government chooses to opt into it, and the Prime Minister has said that he will not do so.
Nonetheless, in its short report, The United Kingdom opt-in to the relocation of migrants within the EU, the Committee calls on the Government to participate in the negotiation and adoption of the proposed scheme provided that it is adopted on a voluntary basis in line with the European Council's Conclusions of 25 June.
Since the report's publication, Member States agreed on 20 July that they would adopt voluntary scheme. The UK has so far declined to take part.
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 home affairs ministers of the 28 Member States agreed, at the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 20 July, the principle that these 40,000 migrants should be relocated over a two-year time period. The UK has declined to participate in this 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.”
Lord Bates will respond to the debate on behalf of the Government.