Time for action on the refugee crisis, says Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker cc

Jean-Claude Juncker cc

Extracts from the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech as it was delivered at the European Parliament

Time for action

I really hope that this time everyone will be on board. No poems, no rhetoric, action is what is needed.

Fences are not the answer

We can build walls, we can build fences. But imagine for a second it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you. There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not sail, no border you would not cross if it is war or the barbarism of the so-called Islamic State that you are fleeing.

Appeal against bigotry

Europe has made make the mistake in the past of distinguishing between Jews, Christians, Muslims. There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy when it comes to refugees.

An admission of failure

I don’t want to get despondent, but Europe is not in good shape … We have collectively committed to resettling over 22,000 people from outside of Europe over the next year, showing solidarity with our neighbours. Of course, this remains too modest in comparison to the Herculean efforts undertaken by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, who are hosting over 4 million Syrian refugees.

Binding quotas to relocate 160,000 refugees

We are proposing a second emergency mechanism to relocate a further 120,000 from Italy, Greece and Hungary [in addition to 40,000 agreed in May]. This has to be done in a compulsory way.

Call to allow asylum seekers to work

I am strongly in favour of allowing asylum seekers to work and earn their own money whilst their applications are being processed. Labour, work, being in a job is a matter of dignity … so we should do everything to change our national legislation in order to allow refugees, migrants, to work since day one of their arrival in Europe.

Call to scrap the Dublin system

It is time we prepare a more fundamental change in the way we deal with asylum applications – and notably the Dublin system that requires that asylum applications be dealt with by the first country of entry.

Fast tracking asylum with safe countries system

The Commission is proposing a common EU list of safe countries of origin. This list will enable Member States to fast track asylum procedures for nationals of countries that are presumed safe to live in. This presumption of safety must in our view certainly apply to all countries which the European Council unanimously decided meet the basic Copenhagen criteria for EU membership – notably as regards democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. It should also apply to the other potential candidate countries on the Western Balkans, in view of their progress made towards candidate status.

Opening legal channels for new arrivals

Let us not forget, we are an ageing continent in demographic decline. We will be needing talent. Over time, migration must change from a problem to be tackled to a well-managed resource. To this end,the Commission will come forward with a well-designed legal migration package in early 2016.

New European border force

We need to strengthen Frontex significantly and develop it into a fully operational European border and coast guard system. It is certainly feasible. But it will cost money.

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