The European Union is planning to resettle 50,000 refugees directly from war-torn countries into Europe in its latest bid to stabilise migration to the bloc, it announced on Wednesday.
The European Commission said that it has set aside €500m (£440) to fund the resettlement of refugees from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopa in order to deter illegal migration and reduce the attraction of people-smugglers.
“People who are in genuine need of protection should not risk their lives or depend on smugglers,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU’s migration commissioner.
“Europe has to show that it is ready to share responsibility with third countries, notably in Africa,” he added.
The initiative comes as Jean-Claude Junker, the European Commission president, tries to take the lead on addressing the migration crisis amid continued squabbling between EU member states over migration burden-sharing.
A compulsory quota scheme to distribute 160,000 migrants within the EU ended this week in failure and recriminations after just 29,000 migrants were relocated and the Commission promised legal action against Hungary and Poland for refusing to accept the quotas.
The Commission is also pushing EU member states to maintain the spirit of its passport-free Schengen travel area which has come under pressure from the twin threats of migration and terror.
Mr Avramopoulos said that from November there would be “stricter” requirements on states wanting to introduce temporary border checks during times of emergency, limiting the checks to a maximum of three years.
“We propose to prolong the maximum deadline from six months to one year, for the temporary re-introduction of border controls. At the same time, we are adding stronger procedural guarantees ensuring that such controls remain an exception used only as a measure of last resort,” he said.
“In the case of long-lasting security threats, an extraordinary possibility for prolonging border controls and internal borders for another two years is added. This can only happen on the basis of a recommendation by the Council.
The new restrictions could put officials in Brussels on a collision course with France and Germany, who wanted the period to be extended to up to four years.
The Commission also wants to extend the 26-member zone to Romania and Bulgaria, telling EU member states it was “high time” they were admitted to the zone.