EU asks Britain to take 1,000s more refugees

EU asks Britain to take 1,000s more refugees
Britain could be forced to accept thousands more refugees as the number crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy has reached an “unprecedented level,” according to a senior EU official.

The European Commission’s deputy head, Frans Timmermans, announced on Tuesday that Britain is expected to take its share of refugees in order to alleviate the burden on Italy.

Italy has taken 85 percent of the 100,000 refugees who have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.

The new program would entail Britain taking in thousands of refugees from war-torn African countries such as Libya.

On Sunday, EU ministers gathered to find a solution to the crisis after Italy threatened to halt its rescue ships as the situation on its coasts has become “unsustainable.”

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni also hit out at EU nations for “looking the other way.”

Although the program should be run collectively, Timmermans singled out Britain’s contribution to the effort. 

“It’s an exercise we need to do at the European level and we count on solidarity from all member states including the United Kingdom,” he added.

Former PM David Cameron pledged in 2015 to take in 20,000 Syrians from camps in the Middle East over a five-year period.

It is understood that current PM Theresa May, who was home secretary at the time, agrees with her predecessor’s policy, as she resists calls to review the situation and allow more refugees to claim asylum, particularly those already in Europe.

She also called for the criteria which defines the term “refugee” to be narrowed.

The program is among a series of proposals made in a bid to solve the migrant crisis, the biggest mass displacement since World War II.

Besides strengthening the ability of the Libyan coast guard to prevent migrant boats packed beyond capacity to leave, Timmermans also suggested more should be done to allow for the EU to deport those who do not have a genuine fear of persecution in their home country.

“We know that many of the people arriving in Italy, when scrutinized, do not have the right to international protection because they don’t flee from war or persecution,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.

“They seek a better life, which is a noble pursuit, but it does not grant them the right to stay in the European Union.”

The migrant issue in Italy has been described as “an unfolding tragedy” by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, but he stressed that it should not be for Italy to face alone.

“It is, first and foremost, a matter of international concern, requiring a joined-up, comprehensive regional approach.”