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EU backs refugee plan to ease load on border states

The EU parliament called for an international conference bringing together the EU with the U.N., U.S. and Arab states

Published: Updated:

The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly backed plans by EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to ease the burden on the bloc’s border states from a wave of refugees mostly coming from Syria.

The lawmakers also called for an international conference bringing together the EU with the United Nations, United States and Arab states in a bid to end the most serious crisis of its kind since World War II.

They voted in favor of a motion welcoming Juncker’s proposals for the relocation of 160,000 asylum-seekers from Greece, Hungary and Italy and for a permanent mechanism of binding quotas to deal with future emergencies.

The non-binding resolution was approved by 432 votes to 142, with 57 abstentions.

“MEPs welcomed a fresh proposal for the emergency relocation of more asylum seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary and a permanent mechanism,” the European Parliament said in a statement.

Juncker, the head of the 28-nation EU’s executive branch, unveiled the plans in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, in which he urged member states to back the proposals and said that “now is not the time to take fright.”

EU interior ministers will consider the plans at an emergency meeting on Monday but, amid opposition from some eastern European member states, Brussels may have to call a special summit to get them approved.

In the motion, MEPs called for revision of the EU's Dublin Treaty on refugees, under which asylum claims must be processed by the first country that refugees arrive in.

They said they were “ready to work on draft laws to set up a solid migration and asylum policy for the future.”

MEPs also called on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to convene an international conference on refugees “with the aim of establishing a common global humanitarian aid strategy.”

It should involve the EU, U.N. agencies, the United States, non-governmental agencies and Arab states, it said.

450,000 refugees arrived in Germany

Around 450,000 refugees have arrived in Germany so far this year, including 37,000 in the first eight days of September, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told parliament on Thursday.

“Up to the day before yesterday, Germany registered 450,000 refugees, including 105,000 in August, and 37,000 in the first eight days of September. There may be more than 100,000 in September,” he said.

“Honestly speaking, this shows that the distribution of 160,000 refugees across Europe is a first step, if one wants to be polite,” said Gabriel, referring to the European Commission’s proposal for EU member states to share out the new arrivals.

READ MORE: Europe and the misrepresentation of refugees

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged the 28-nation bloc to go further and agree on a proportional distribution of refugees with no limits on actual numbers, amid a record influx from war-torn Syria and other countries.

“We cannot just fix a ceiling and say, ‘I don’t care about anything above that’“, she told parliament on Wednesday.

Germany is expecting to welcome 800,000 asylum-seekers this year, four times more than last year and far more than any other European country.