Estonia against EU refugee quota plan ({{commentsTotal}})

Libyan refugees
Libyan refugees Source: (Reuters/Scanpix)

Estonia, Hungary and Slovakia are against the European Union plans to introduce a quota system to distribute migrants across its member states, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported over the weekend.

The EU plans to implement quota to deal with a growing number of refugees from Africa and the Middle East, who have managed to reach the European shores. Currently, Italy, Greece and Malta have been largely left alone to deal with the worst migration crisis in years.

But several countries are fiercely against the plan, Estonia among them. "This is not solidarity. It is an unfair, unrighteous and dishonorable proposal which we cannot accept," the far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday, according to DW. "It is a crazy idea for someone to let refugees into their own country, not defend their borders and say, now I will distribute them among you, who did not want to let anyone in," Orban added.

Estonia has for long taken a very strict stance against refugee policies. The country has refused to be part of the UN Refugee Agency's displacement programs and taken a firm stand against any solidarity mechanisms within the EU, according to NGO Estonian Refugee Council. Only a few dozen people a year are granted asylum in Estonia.

Estonia's foreign minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus recently told ERR that dealing with asylum seekers is an aftermath, but the real focus should be on ensuring peace in Libya and combating human trafficking.

But five Estonian members of the European Parliament – Marju Lauristin, Urmas Paet, Tunne Kelam, Indrek Tarand, Kaja Kallas – who recently discussed the current Mediterranean migration crisis among other topics at ERR's Vikerraadio, all agreed that Estonia needs to show solidarity with the rest of Europe and this may also mean accepting a small number of refugees.

Paet recommended Estonia to participate in the pan-European refugee-program. He conceded that Estonian public opinion is not very immigration-friendly, but emphasized nevertheless that it is important to start with step-by-step initiatives. “We are not talking about massive influx of refugees, but we should begin showing some empathy by accepting and ensuring a normal life for a number of orphans, for example.” Marju Lauristin also reminded that Estonian refugees fled the Soviet occupation in 1944 and found a safe haven in Sweden.

According the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 2,000 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean since the start of the year - over 30 times more than during the same period in 2014. In the latest incident, up to 900 migrants went missing and feared dead after a wooden fishing boat, on which they were hoping to reach the shores of Europe, capsized near Libya.

“The world needs to react with the conviction with which it eliminated piracy off the coast of Somalia a few years ago,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM’s Director General. “All of us, especially the EU and the world’s powers can no longer sit on the sidelines watching, while this tragedy unfolds in slow motion.”

The European Commission is scheduled to present its migration policy, introducing quota plan, on May 13. The EU parliament has already voted in favor of the plans.

Editor: S. Tambur

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