The European Commission just unveiled strict new migration rules

Emma Haslett
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Unusually calm waters have led to an upsurge in the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean in recent months (Source: Getty)

Suddenly, George Osborne's mission to renegotiate the UK's relationship with Europe just got more urgent: the European Commission (EC) has just unveiled new emergency migration measures, designed to stem the tide of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Frans Timmermans, the EC's vice president, said the "tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean". Last month 800 migrants died after their boat sank off the coast of Sicily.

Included in the plan are:

  • Quotas for each country on taking in migrants. The quota will be based on the strength of the economy and unemployment rates - so while Greece, for instance, would avoid being allocated many, the UK, Germany and France would all be forced to take in thousands of migrants

  • A €50m (£36m) resettlement programme taking in as many as 20,000 refugees a year who are "in clear need of international protection"

  • A US-style "Blue Card" system aimed at highly-skilled migrants. Although this already exists, just 16,000 were issued in its first two years of operating - the EC said it wanted to "modernise and overhaul" the scheme "by reprioritising our integration policies, and by maximising the benefits of migration policy to individuals and countries of origin"

  • Tripling the capacity of Europe's border guards through its Poseidon and Triton operations by increasing its budget by €89m, including €5m in emergency funding from frontline member states. Essentially, this will make it harder for people traffickers to cross the Mediterranean

Given the plan goes to a members' vote on 25 June, it's unlikely to pass - although those "frontline member states" - ie. Greece, Italy and other Med countries targeted by traffickers - will be pleased, there are likely to be objections from various member states, including the UK (which doesn't like the idea of quotas), Poland and Hungary (which also don't like the idea of quotas).

Timmerman emphasised that the plan would only work if member states co-operate.

We need to find European solutions, based on internal solidarity and the realisation that we have a common responsibility to create an effective migration policy.

That is why the Commission today proposes an agenda which reflects our common values and provides an answer to our citizens' worries about unacceptable human suffering on the one hand and inadequate application of our agreed common asylum rules on the other hand. The measures we propose will help manage migration better and thus respond to the justified expectations of citizens.

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