Ukraine: EU agrees plan to aid refugee resettlement
European Union interior ministers met in Brussels on Monday to discuss a joint refugee policy as millions flee Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
They agreed on a plan to coordinate the sheltering capacity between member states based on a solidarity approach.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 3.8 million people have fled as Russian forces attack civilian targets and hit cities like Mariupol with constant shelling.
Over 2 million refugees have arrived in neighboring Poland, with hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in fellow EU member states Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia.
Polish officials have warned that their asylum system could buckle under the pressure of so many arrivals in such a short time.
What did the ministers agree on in the meeting?
Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, spoke to reporters after the meeting.
She said that the ministers had agreed on a 10-point plan. It included creating an EU-wide registration system for Ukrainian refugees and to improve transport coordination to help people move between countries.
The EU will set up an anti-trafficking plan as well as giving direct support to Moldova, a non-EU state on the border with Ukraine that has taken in thousands of refugees already.
"We have received in the EU 3.8 million refugees from Ukraine. Out of those, half of them are children," Johansson said.
But "the number of arrivals is going down," she said. "At the peak we had 100,000 arrivals per day, now it's down to 40,000 per day."
Germany against quota system
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters before the special EU meeting that the bloc needs a system based "on solidarity" to fairly distribute refugees arriving from Ukraine rather than with quotas.
However, after the meeting she appeared disappointed with what the ministers had agreed on. "It would have been good if it had been applied in a very binding way," Faeser said.
She welcomed the 10-point plan, but said that an agreement on taking in refugees would need to be made binding at some point.
"The more refugees come, the greater the desire will be for a binding distribution," she said.
A letter written by Faeser and her Polish counterpart Mariusz Kaminski also called for a fixed payment of €1,000 ($1,100) to member states for each refugee they take in, dpa reported.
Faeser has previously called on the bloc to do more to make the distribution of refugees more equal. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees had already arrived in Germany.
A common approach marks a significant shift to how the bloc approaches a refugee influx. In 2015, with millions arriving from Syria and Iraq, schemes to evenly spread out refugee resettlement were bitterly contested by several member states, and processes for dealing with new arrivals varied widely across Europe.
ab, es/wmr (Reuters, dpa)