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EU to relocate 60,000 refugees
June 26, 2015, 6:29 am

Greek emergency crews rescue African migrant refugees from a boat that capsized off Rhodes in April 2015 [Xinhua]

Greek emergency crews rescue African migrant refugees from a boat that capsized off Rhodes in April 2015 [Xinhua]

European leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels, Belgium to establish a protocol for dealing with the large number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean have finally agreed to alleviate the burden from primary migrant destinations Greece and Italy, diplomats said late Thursday.

More than 120,000 boat migrants landed in Greece and Italy in the past six months, the UN says. More than 150,000 landed in Italy last year.

Both countries had for years appealed to the European Union to help relocate the huge numbers making it onto their shores.

Summit Chairman Donald Tusk said a total of 60,000 refugees will be relocated from Greece, Italy – and outside the EU – and settled in member countries over the next two years. Some 40,000 will come from Greece and Italy.

Bulgaria and Hungary are exempt from the agreement.

But Tusk said that an earlier proposal to use a mandatory quota scheme to “distribute” refugees and migrants among the 28 countries that make up the European body was scrapped amid heated, often angry debate late Thursday.

Germany, which accepted 200,000 migrants last year, was a big proponent of the measure, as was Italy, which rescued more than 150,000 seafaring migrants in 2014.

But Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and the UK vehemently opposed the measure. Instead, the relocation will be voluntary – a development that has infuriated Italian diplomats.

The issue of migrant refugees crossing into Europe from North Africa came to the fore and became a significant bone of contention between EU leaders following the deaths of 1,800 men, women and children who had drowned as they made the perilous trek across the Mediterranean in often overcrowded and unsafe vehicles.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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