As people seek refuge in Europe in record numbers this year, government leaders are trying to come up with a solution. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will roll out his proposal Wednesday for tackling the region’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. He wants to relocate 120,000 migrants in Italy, Greece and Hungary, which as main arrival points are being overwhelmed, to countries throughout the European Union, according to an official familiar with the plan who asked not to be identified because the proposal is not yet public. His proposal will also expand the list of countries where refugees can safely be returned without worry of political persecution to include the western Balkans and Turkey, according to the official.
Here are five things you need to know about the current debate:
Who’s pushing for the changes?
Juncker’s proposal comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande last week urged the EU to agree on a redistribution plan for refugees and speed up the processing when they arrive. Currently, refugees need to be registered in the country where they enter. Building on an EU proposal from May, Merkel and Hollande want to set up centers in places where refugees typically first arrive in the EU to register the migrants, and pass on those who qualify for asylum to countries through the 28-member bloc. Under the plan, EU nations would be required to accept an agreed-upon quota of refugees.
Why is Germany behind this and who’s against it?
Germany expects to be the destination for 800,000 asylum seekers this year, albeit many are coming from the Balkans and will ultimately be sent back home. Merkel has the support of several countries including Austria, Sweden, Greece and Italy. Others disagree. Romania has said it will demand entry to the visa-free Schengen area if it has to take in a mandatory number of refugees. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called a quota system a "terrible mistake" because it will encourage more people to come -- a view that’s backed by other eastern European countries. The U.K., Ireland and Denmark won’t be included in Juncker’s proposal because they have an opt-out on immigration policy. The countries could still participate if they wish to do so -- Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen offered on Monday to take in 100 refugees in Germany.
What other proposals are on the table?
Orban wants to focus instead on external security -- he has built a wall along his country’s border with Serbia -- and tougher laws. Hollande, who said on Monday that the country is preparing for air strikes in Syria, called for "massive aid" to support camps in countries neighboring Syria so that refugees can stay as close to home as possible. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who pledged on Monday to take 20,000 refugees over five years, will accept people directly from camps in the Middle East instead of those already in Europe. Cameron argues that his plan will make the process more orderly and cut down on human trafficking and deaths.
How much will it cost?
Merkel said Monday that it’s plausible Germany may need to spend an extra 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) next year to deal with the influx of migrants coming into the country. Juncker’s plan includes 6,000 euros in funding per refugee for the country taking them in and provides 500 euros per migrant to the nation where they enter the EU, the official said. Countries that refuse to participate would have to pay additional fees linked to their GDP.
How did we get here?
While many political leaders and media organizations focused on Greece, Europe’s refugee crisis has been bubbling for months as people fled war-torn countries such as Syria. Attention shifted sharply to migrants at the end of August after a delivery truck with 71 dead refugees was found in Austria. A picture of a dead child washed up on the Turkish shore also rallied global support for a solution.
With assistance from John Follain in Rome, Peter Levring in Copenhagen, Paul Tugwell in Athens, Robert Hutton and Svenja O'Donnell in London and Ian Wishartin Brussels.