The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday proposed a quota system to distribute migrants across its 28 member states in a collective effort to relieve the pressure migration crises is putting on southern Europe. The plan means that Estonia would also receive some asylum seekers, but the exact number will be specified in late May.
The EC presented European Agenda on Migration today, outlining immediate measures and future policies to respond to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean. "Thousands of migrants have been putting their lives in peril to cross the Mediterranean and it has become clear that no member state can effectively address migration alone," it said in a statement.
By the end of May, the EC will propose a temporary distribution mechanism for persons in clear need of international protection within the EU. A proposal for a permanent EU system for relocation in emergency situations of mass influxes will follow by the end of 2015. Under the plan, an EU-wide resettlement scheme would distribute 20,000 refugees in all member states.
Currently five of the 28 EU member states take in about three-quarters of the asylum seekers in Europe. The EC plan aims at more even distribution across all members of the union, taking into account population size, unemployment rates and economic strength. So far, Italy, Greece, Germany and Sweden have publicly backed the proposals, but Estonia as well as Hungary and Slovakia are known to be on the opposing side. Britain is also standing fiercely against.
According to the EC resettlement scheme, Estonia would receive 326 displaced persons.
Estonian politicians split on issue
The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) vice-chairman Martin Helme is firmly against accepting any asylum seekers. "Estonia is not responsible, nor has any moral responsibility for the migration crises at the European Union's southern borders," he told ERR. In his opinion, the situation could be solved by removing motivation to come to Europe by "scrapping the overly generous benefits to people who enter the EU illegally."
But not everyone agrees with this simplified approach. "We are born into this world with a choice - whether to build a fort that protects us, or to insure our well-being by having friends. I believe that a small country like Estonia, with its financial, social and economic capabilities, cannot build a fort between Europe and Russia, which would allow it to exists in solidarity between its walls," Parliament's Constitutional Committee Chairman Kalle Laanet (Reform Party) said.
Estonian MEPs have also called for more acceptance and solidarity toward asylum seekers, while Foreign Minister Keit-Pentus Rosimannus said the real focus should be on ensuring peace in Libya and targeting the people-smugglers.
Editor: M. Oll, S. Tambur