BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union moved Wednesday to help Italy and Greece manage a massive influx of migrants across the Mediterranean and oblige reluctant EU partners to share the refugee burden.
The proposals come as the number of desperate migrants seeking better lives in Europe continues to rise, with more than 80,000 landing so far this year. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 1,820 others have died or gone missing on that journey.
Here are some questions and answers about the proposals:
Q: How many refugees are accommodated for under the plans?
A: The EU's executive commission has suggested that 40,000 Syrians and Eritreans newly arrived in Europe should be relocated away from Italy and Greece over the next two years. A further 20,000 people not currently in Europe and in clear need of international protection would be shared among the 28 EU nations under a resettling scheme.
Q: What does the relocation plan for the 40,000 involve?
A: Syrians and Eritreans arriving in Italy and Greece after April 15, 2015, will be shared among 23 of the other 26 member nations over two years. Under their membership opt-out, Britain, Denmark and Ireland are not obliged to take part. Migrants would be screened within one month and countries would receive 6,000 euros ($6,531) for each person they accept. They could ask for migrants with certain job skills.
Q: Why Syrians and Eritreans?
A: Syrians and Eritreans are currently granted asylum in more than 75 percent of cases. The commission believes this choice will speed up the screening process.
Q: What about the resettlement scheme for the 20,000?
A: This would see people living outside the EU, who are deemed by the U.N refugee agency to need international protection, shared among all 28 EU nations over the next two years. Unlike the relocation plan, it has no basis in EU law and is only a recommendation, which is why Britain, Denmark and Ireland are included. The commission will make a total of 50 million euros available for countries taking part.
Q: What are the criteria for sharing refugees?
A: The commission has used a weighted index based on each country's gross domestic product, unemployment level and migration efforts already undertaken. Germany, France and Spain would host most relocated refugees. Malta and Cyprus the least.
Q: Are these plans ready to be enforced?
A: No. The emergency proposals must be endorsed by member nations and the European Parliament. Several countries have already rejected the idea of being bound by any kind of refugee quotas. EU interior ministers will discuss the plans at their next meeting in Luxembourg on June 15-16.
Q: Malta has migration challenges. Why doesn't the plan redistribute refugees arriving there?
A: The number of migrants arriving in Malta has slightly decreased since last year. The commission says it will expand the system to Malta and any other country in need in times of emergency.
Q: Is this the unpopular quota scheme the EU was supposed to propose?
A: No. This is just an emergency relocation plan, but it may be used again in the future during mass movements of migrants. The quota scheme refers to a permanent system the EU plans to propose by the end of the year, which would be automatically triggered in times of high migration.