BRUSSELS, May 27 (UPI) -- European Union countries will absorb and share 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean refugees under a plan unveiled in Brussels Wednesday.
The controversial proposal introduces immigration quotas for the 28-member economic bloc, and shares the burden of admitting asylum seekers who typically arrive, fleeing persecution and poverty, in Greece, Malta and Italy. The details come after the plan was announced, to resistance and criticism by some EU countries, earlier this month.
The 40,000 qualifying refugees must have arrived in Europe after any new policy is implemented, meaning those currently detained in Italy and Greece would not qualify. Britain, which has declared no interest in taking in more refugees, is exempt from the program unless it chooses to join, as is Denmark. France, Spain and central and eastern European countries also oppose the quota plan, saying involvement should be voluntary and not mandatory.
"It's clearly a beginning, a first step," William Lacy Swing of the International Organization for Migration told the British newspaper the Guardian. "There's a lot of interest in a comprehensive policy. Our migration policies have not kept pace with migration realities. This is not something that gets you elected or re-elected."
Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration issues, said a new program to process asylum seekers before they arrive in Europe would begin, with a pilot office in Niger and possibilities to establish offices across Africa and the Middle East.