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UK to fight Brussels refugee quota

Published 11/05/2015

A Royal Marine from HMS Bulwark watches over refugees on a Royal Navy landing craft in the Mediterranean (MoD/PA)
A Royal Marine from HMS Bulwark watches over refugees on a Royal Navy landing craft in the Mediterranean (MoD/PA)

Britain has vowed to fight European Commission plans to force member states to take a fair share of refugees seeking asylum in Europe.

The Brussels blueprint, drawn up in response to the deadly people trafficking from Libya which has seen hundreds drown off the coast of Italy, would impose a quota based on economic and social factors.

Emergency mechanisms would be invoked by the end of the month to oblige Britain and the other 27 member states to make a "fair and balanced contribution" to taking in "persons in clear need of international protection", it was reported.

A longer-term plan for "a mandatory and automatically-triggered relocation system" would, The Times said, result in the UK dealing with at least twice the present 30,000 cases each year, on a par with the numbers seen in France and Italy.

A "redistribution key" would allocate numbers based on GDP, population, unemployment and previous rates of taking in asylum seekers, it said.

Germany, which had more than 200,000 applicants last year, supports the changes.

But the Home Office said they were unacceptable to the UK, putting David Cameron on collision course with German chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders as he begins attempts to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels ahead of an promised in/out referendum in 2017.

"The UK has a proud history of offering asylum to those who need it most but we do not believe that a mandatory system of resettlement is the answer. We will oppose any EU Commission proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota," a spokesman said.

"Our focus must be on targeting and stopping the callous criminals who lie behind this vile trade in human beings. Therefore we will continue to focus our efforts on enhancing work between the law enforcement agencies, working within the countries of origin and transit and establishing a more effective process of returning illegal migrants."

It comes with the United Nations expected later to examine a draft resolution - drawn up by the UK - authorising the use of military action against people smuggling networks operating from Libyan waters.

EU foreign and security policy co-ordinator Federica Mogherini will present the proposals, which are said to call for the "use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers".

Royal Navy flagship HMS Bulwark - sent to the Mediterranean by Prime Minister David Cameron to assist with operations at the height of the crisis last month - could be involved, as well as helicopter gunships putting traffickers' vessels out of action.

A number of EU member states - including Britain, France and Spain - are believed to be ready to contribute to the Italy -led mission, but it faces opposition from the Libyan authorities.

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