Latvian MEPs urge review of refugee quota plans

Latvia’s deputies in the European Parliament’s largest political grouping – the European People’s Party (EPP) have sent a letter to Commissioner of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Karmenu Vella voicing concern Friday over the EC’s latest offer of a solidarity mechanism for sharing the refugee burden across all member states.

As reported by LTV reporter Nadežda Kalaus, the letter signed by MEPs Artis Pabriks, Inese Vaidere and Krišjānis Kariņš states that the current provisions do not take Latvia’s specific circumstances fully into account. Among the considerations in question are Latvia’s capacity to accommodate and integrate the new wave of immigrants, as well as the Soviet-imposed wave of historic Russian-speaking immigration, the legacy of which is still felt to this day.

Therefore the deputies argue that the taking in of refugees must be a voluntary option for member states. At the same time they acknowledge the fact that the migration problem is one of the EU’s greatest challenges of the moment and express their support for efforts to address it.

The recommended quota estimates recently released by the EC were sharply criticized almost immediately upon their release by each of the three Baltic states. According to the calculations, Latvia ought to accept 737 refugees, Lithuania 710 and Estonia 1064.  

Latvia’s official stance is to object to the refugee quotas. The governing coalition parties ruled not to support the idea in light of the National Alliance’s categorical position against such mandatory requirements of solidarity. Opposition parties have also been fairly unanimous in wanting to nix any such quotas outright.

The EC had previously proposed that 20,000 refugees be accepted into Europe over the next two years and redistributed among all member states excepting the UK, Ireland and Denmark, which could choose voluntarily whether and how many of them to take in. According to these earlier numbers, Latvia would have had to accommodate around 220 prior-approved asylum-seekers as well as 1.2% of refugees already arrived inside the European Union.

The EC’s latest calculations now estimate the need to accommodate 40,000 asylum-seekers over a two-year period. So far this year, already 45,000 refugees have arrived on the EU’s Mediterranean member-state coasts, where more than 200,000 made their way across the treacherous seas last year alone.

The masses of people fleeing from poverty and conflict in North Africa and the Middle East are falling prey to human traffickers, especially on the Libyan coast. Here the unscrupulous extort money from the innocent only to pack them into unseaworthy boats and rafts, in which many hundreds have perished in the process.

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