The European Commission has unveiled plans to deal with what’s being described as Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Under the mandatory plan, European Union member states will be asked to take in 160,000 people.
EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker outlined the plans during an impassioned address to the European Parliament.
Mr Juncker says the bloc is not in a good state.
“It is high time to act, to manage the refugee crisis – because there is no alternative to this. There has been a lot of finger-pointing in the past weeks. Member states have accused each other of not doing enough or doing the wrong thing.”
Mr Juncker has urged Europeans to show humanity and dignity by welcoming in refugees.
“Now is not a time to take fright. It is a time to take bold, determined, concerted action by the European Union by its member states and by its institutions. The first of all the matters, before other considerations, is a matter of humanity and human dignity and for Europe, it’s also a matter for historical fairness.”
To that end, Mr Juncker has unveiled an emergency plan for the compulsory distribution of 160,000 people across the EU’s 28 members.
“We are not talking about 40,000, we are not talking about 120,000. It is 160,000. That is the number Europeans have to take in charge and have to take in their arms and I really hope that this time everyone will be on board. No poems, no rhetoric – action is what is needed for the time being.”
Germany will take more than 31,000 people, France 24,000 and Spain almost 15,000.
He reminded Europe it is a continent where almost everyone has been a refugee at some point or another.
That comment was met with some audible disagreement.
Juncker: “We should remember well that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone at one time has been a refugee.”
Juncker: “Our common history is marked by millions of refugees fleeing from religious or political persecution, from war, from dictatorship, from oppression. Huguenots fleeing from France in the 17th century, Jews, Sinte, Roma – many others fleeing from Germany during the Nazi era of the 30s and 40s of the last century.”
He also confirmed plans for a common EU list of so-called “safe countries of origin”, whose citizens would be subject to fast-track deportations if they breached EU immigration laws.
Mr Juncker has urged the bloc to allow refugees to work from day one, even while their asylum applications are processed.
In his marathon 80-minute speech, the EU chief also took aim at Hungary for its plan to build a long wall along its border with Serbia.
He’s urged member states to have some perspective on the matter.
“It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery of the world, but let us be honest and put things into perspective. There is certainly an unprecedented number of refugees coming to Europe at the moment. However, the still represent just 0.11 percent of the total European Union population.”
Other measures outlined in the plan include a more permanent system for dealing with the influx of migrants and refugees.
But the mandatory quotas have faced stiff opposition from states such as Hungary that are on the front line of the crisis.
The Commission says failure by states to comply will result in financial penalties.