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In a move to discourage immigrants from attempting to illegally enter European Union member-states, the European Commission has established the “Joint EU Resettlement Program.”
Currently, those who attempt to flee to the EU face a perilous journey on unsafe boats after giving their life savings to human traffickers. Under the program, EU nations would receive 4,000 euros (about $5,800 USD) from the EU Refugee Fund for each person taken in. The voluntary program is also an attempt to unify asylum policies across Europe. Member-states currently set their own refuge terms.
According to the United Nations, 747,000 refugees require resettlement, of which 203,000 are in urgent need. Worldwide, fewer than 88,000 were relocated in 2008, and only 4,378 to the EU—a small number compared to Western nations such as the United States, which took in 60,000 refugees.
The European Union hopes the program will bolster its humanitarian image.
A European Commission spokesman said, “This is an example of the EU expressing shared responsibility and also about increasing the international standing of the EU…You have a situation where Canada resettled 10,000 people last year while the EU did just half of that, so we want to improve our situation” (The Times, London).
The program also aims to decrease the burden of border states such as Italy or Malta, which take in many more asylum seekers than other nations. For example, Malta, with a total population of 410,000, houses 7,000 immigrants in refugee camps. Other member-states take in virtually none.
A group of experts chosen by the EU would decide who would receive top priority for resettlement—likely Iraqi refugees in Syria or Jordan, and Sudanese refugees in Chad.
The launch of the program was framed by disagreement between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the EU Commission over a boatload of 75 refugees, thought to be Somalis, which turned up in Italy’s coastal waters. Italian authorities allegedly broke international policies by sending back immigrants without checking if they had a legitimate case for asylum.