Merkel Boosts Refugee Funding as Europe Prepares Quotas

Refugees - Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to spend an extra 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) on refugees next year in Germany as European officials prepared a proposal to relocate thousands of migrants throughout the region.

Merkel said on Monday that Germany will add 3 billion euros to the 2016 federal budget and provide another 3 billion euros to states and municipalities to tackle Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. The chancellor said “it’s not entirely implausible” that her country will need an extra 10 billion euros in total next year.

The added funding comes as the region’s leaders bicker over how best to respond to the growing influx of migrants fleeing war and poverty, with Germany and Austria pushing for country-by-country quotas across the 28-member European Union. Hungary and others in eastern Europe oppose such measures and have pursued a more hard-line approach to deter refugees.

“It’s high time for finding a joint position,” Merkel said on Monday. “We will work to make that one of the grand projects of the European Union in the years ahead.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will announce a proposal on Wednesday to relocate 120,000 migrants in Italy, Greece and Hungary to countries throughout the EU, according to an EU official who asked not to be identified discussing proposals that are not yet public. The U.K., Ireland and Denmark won’t be included because they have an opt-out on immigration policy, the official said.

Refugee Funding

The plan will include 6,000 euros in funding per refugee for the country taking them in and provide 500 euros per migrant to the nation where they enter the EU, with countries that refuse to participate having to pay additional fees linked to their GDP, the official said.

The list of nations free of political persecution to which people can be safely returned will expand to include EU candidate countries in the western Balkans and Turkey, a move meant to speed up the deportation of those unlikely to get asylum, the person said.

Juncker’s proposal will need the backing of a qualified majority within the EU to take effect and is likely to meet stiff opposition from Hungary and others in eastern Europe, which argue that quotas will simply encourage more to come.

“I can’t repeat our message to migrants often enough: ‘Please don’t come because we won’t let you through,’” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in Budapest on Monday. “New laws passed by parliament will change our border defense system. Illegal border crossing will automatically trigger imprisonment or expulsion.”

Wire Fence

Orban has built a razor-wire fence along the frontier with Serbia, beefed up the number of police and soldiers along the border and pushed through laws making it easier to immediately deport anyone entering from countries deemed “safe” and making it a crime to cross the border illegally. The measures drew a rebuke from Austria.

“Somebody who seriously claims to solve the refugee problem with razor wire, and then creates such a chaos has disqualified himself politically,”Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in an interview with the Oesterreich newspaper.

Faymann said on Sunday that his country will end emergency measures that allowed the passage of thousands of migrants over the weekend from Hungary without registering. Austria and Germany late on Friday suspended European Union rules that require migrants to register and stay in the EU country where they first enter, allowing the refugees to travel on trains to Munich before being sent to shelters around Germany.

Faymann is meeting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Czech Premier Bohuslav Sobotka in Bratislava later on Monday to discuss the influx of migrants. The eastern European leaders oppose a quota system for migrants within the EU, while Faymann has asked the countries to take on more refugees.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande last week proposed what they called a more “fair” distribution of refugees across the EU, a common asylum program and the creation of centers in border countries to process the applications of asylum seekers on the spot. Bloomberg