Daily Management Review

Europe Should Welcome Refugees, Agree to Mandatory Refugee Sharing System - Jean-Claude Juncker


Toeing the lines of the German Councilor Angela Merkel, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Wednesday, urged the member countries to agree to a mandatory system of sharing of a wave of refugees fleeing war and poverty.

Last week Merkel had indicated the necessity of formulating a universally acceptable refugee acceptance policy and the EU member countries should take responsibility to divide the refugees among themselves.

Juncker however also promised to improve frontier defenses and deport more illegal migrants.

While promising a permanent asylum mechanism to cope with future refugee crises situations, Juncker, while making his first address in the State of the Union to the European Parliament, outlined an emergency plan to distribute 160,000 refugees among the 28 EU member states.

Junker reiterated that the rest of the European countries should not leave Greece, Hungary and Italy, the main countries where the present wave of refugees mainly from Syria first enter Europe, to fend with the situation alone. Juncker’s proposal of mandatory sharing of refugees has however not been received with much fanfare among a section of the EU leaders.  

While saying the vast majority of the 500,000 people who had arrived in Europe this year were fleeing war in Syria and Libya, "the terror of the Islamic State" or "dictatorship in Eritrea", Juncker appealed to Europeans to respond to the crisis with humanity, dignity and "historical fairness" and not take fright.

He said that Europe was much stronger to tackle the problem of refugees which was much smaller in comparison to what countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon - Syria's neighbours, were facing. He said that over the centuries there had been several incidents of refugees coming into Europe.

"It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. That is something to be proud of and not something to fear," the former Luxembourg prime minister said in a marathon 80-minute speech.

"The Europe I want to live in is illustrated by those who want to help," he added, stressing his belief in not discriminating between refugees based on their religion.

Juncker however met with stiff resistance and was even heckled by Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, who said that the EU should emulate Australia's "stop the boats" policy to halt a flow of "biblical proportions" as most of the refugees who were arriving were economic migrants.

There were other disruptions during the speech by the European Commission President when Italian lawmaker Gianluca Buonanno of the anti-immigration Northern League donned an Angela Merkel face-mask to interrupt Juncker trying to suggest that Juncker was simply speaking out what the German Chancellor had been dictating.

Berlin had waived the EU Dublin convention norms for refugee registration for Syrian refugees a few days ago and has been urging the European community to take in as many refugees as possible. Germany has said it expects to receive up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year.