Can Germany’s EU refugee quotas ease the European migration crisis?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed a new plan which would bring refugees directly from the Middle East to Europe in order to spare asylum-seekers perilous sea crossings.

Markus Schreiber/AP
Camp beds for migrants stand at an emergency refugee shelter in a sports hall in Berlin, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. Up to 1000 people can be housed in two sports halls of this shelter for their first days in Germany, before they get officially registered and distributed to other accommodations.
Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
A Syrian refugee girl sits in a bus at a temporary registration camp during a rain storm on the Greek island of Lesbos, Oct. 21, 2015. Over half a million refugees and migrants have come by sea into Greece this year, and the rate of arrivals is rising with over 8,000 coming on Monday alone, in a rush to beat the onset of freezing winter, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ambitious plans for helping hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees and the Middle Eastern countries hosting them, the Guardian reports.

Ms. Merkel is calling on the European Union (EU) to adopt “compulsory and permanent quotas for sharing the distribution” of asylum-seekers. Over half of EU countries are opposed to the plan. One of the proposals coming out of Berlin and Brussels involves an arrangement between the EU and host countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – currently hosting over 4 million refugees among them – which would be expected to humanely provide asylum for remaining refuges after sending “large but unspecified” numbers to Europe. Refugees who stay behind or get sent back would be accommodated in EU-funded camps.

One of Merkel’s chief priorities is improving living conditions for the dislocated, most of whom are fleeing war-torn Syria, where an estimated 220,000 people have been killed since 2011 in the conflict that forced over half of the country’s population into desperate, and dangerous exodus. The German proposal would guarantee safe travel for the vulnerable refugees.

According to Amnesty International – the non-governmental organization that works for global human rights – the United Nations' humanitarian aid campaign for the crisis is only 40 percent funded. In Lebanon, refugees receive “less than half a dollar a day for food assistance,” and over 80 percent of refugees in Jordan are below that country’s poverty line. Such dismal numbers mean the German plan would cost billions, which Merkel wants to raise with a “special,” EU-wide levy to account for the hole that centralized aid would leave in the EU budget.

Merkel's proposal would also “Europeanise” control of the EU’s external borders, which entails national governments partially relinquishing authority and giving relevant powers regarding the admission, detention, and deportation of asylum-seekers to EU bodies like the Frontex border agency. What this involves exactly remains unclear, though, for the 26 nations in the Schengen passport-free travel zone, it may mean more compromise and frustration already felt by some Europeans, including many Germans.

According to the international NGO Human Rights Watch,

“The rising number of asylum seekers to Germany has been met with anti-migrant protests and some incidents of violent expressions of right-wing sentiment. Government statistics revealed a stark increase in hate crimes against asylum seekers and asylum centers in 2014. Reforms to the asylum system lifted the controversial ban on in-country travel for asylum seekers after three months and eased access to the labor market.”

Internally, Germany is enacting policies to address the nearly 800,000 newcomers expected to arrive this year. The Associated Press reports German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Friday that measures intended to accelerate the country's handling of the migrant influx and make it easier to deport rejected asylum applicants will take effect this weekend. The number of deportations will rise, said de Maiziere, who didn't give specifics, but did note there have been 11,000 deportations so far this year, and four or five times as many people left voluntarily.

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