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EP is for quotas on refugees, Czech politicians can't agree

7.5.2015 16:53
Refugees from Africa. (PHOTO:  Vito Manzari, Wikimedia Commons)
Refugees from Africa. (PHOTO: Vito Manzari, Wikimedia Commons)

On Saturday, 2 May a total of 3 427 refugees were rescued from boats in the Mediterranean Sea during several interventions near the coast of Libya, according to the Italian Coast Guard. The service has been rescuing thousands of African immigrants from overcrowded smuggling vessels that frequently capsize on their way to Italy,with many lives lost.

MEPs demand quotas 

Last month around 800 people drowned during the worst such tragedy. Representatives of the European Union then held an extraordinary summit on the topic of refugees.

The Member States agreed at that meeting to enhance their operations to rescue refugees and also agreed there is a need to combat smugglers. Of course, most Members of the European Parliament have criticized the summit's conclusions.  

The MEPs believe that instead of protecting their own borders, the EU and the Member States should focus on saving refugee lives. In a joint resolution, most of the EP factions called for greater openness of the borders to refugees and for each state to award asylum on the basis of quotas.  

"The EP calls on the Member States to contribute more to the existing system for resettlement," reads the resolution, which demands the European countries also accelerate the asylum process. That would make it possible to grant asylum to more applicants.

Sobotka and Zeman oppose quotas

The topic of quotas has divided Czech MEPs. Those MEPs with the governing Social Democratic party support the idea - irrespective of the fact that Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said he is against introducing them.  

"[Quotas] are one way to aid Greece, Italy and Spain so they are not left alone to solve this problem," explained Czech MEP Miroslav Peche, who supports the EP's move but said the basis for resolving the refugees' situation should still be to increase aid directly to the areas from which the migrants originate, especially northern Africa. Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová (Christian Democrats) supported the EP's resolution as a whole, but abstained from voting on the quota issue.

"I want us to do this (accept refugees) voluntarily as an expression of our responsibility and solidarity with those who are actually afflicted by persecution or war," she said. Czech MEPs for the Civic Democrats (ODS) and TOP 09 voted against assigning a certain number of refugees to each country.  

"First and foremost, we must now make the security perspective our priority and show that Europe is not prepared to absorb dozens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees," said Jan Zahradil (ODS), who rejected the resolution entirely. TOP 09 MEPs, on the other hand, supported the resolution in general, objecting only to the quotas.

"The countries of the EU must participate in resolving this situation, whether financially or by accepting refugees on a voluntary basis," said Czech MEP Luděk Niedermayer (TOP 09), who leads the Czech delegation in the Christian Democratic faction at the EP. Czech President Miloš Zeman recently said he also objects to the introduction of quotas.

While the European Parliament can support a quota system for refugee reception, the implementation of it would be fully within the powers of the national governments and parliaments. Czech President Zeman reiterated his opinion that aid to refugees is effective when it is provided directly in their own territory or that of a neighboring country.  

"I am concerned that to resettle refugees from one cultural environment into a completely different one is like replanting an old tree - frequently what happens is it just dies, or it faces conditions that don't favor its further growth," Zeman said. He also pointed out that Islamic fighters, so-called jihadists, could come to Europe along with peaceful refugees.

In January the Czech Government agreed to accept 15 Syrian children who are ill and their accompanying relatives. Non-governmental organizations, however, have repeatedly criticized the Czech Republic for its unwillingness to receive a larger number of refugees. 


ČTK, mik, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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EU, Migrace, Zeman, Czech Republic



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