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Swiss minister calls for European solidarity in asylum seekers redistribution

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga wants all European countries to honour their quotas as part of a European Union pledge to redistribute some 160,000 asylum seekers.

At a meeting of European ministers in Brussels on Thursday, Sommaruga said that Switzerland will honour its promise of taking in 1,500 refugees from Italy and Greece by the end of this year.

“The programme only works if everyone acts in the same manner,” she said. “It [refusal to honour quotas] annoys me because we cannot create a European migration policy without solidarity.”

Sommaruga also called for EU members to support migrants who are willing to return to their country of origin voluntarily. Switzerland is providing financial support to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR)programmes. Over 38,000 migrants were assisted with voluntary return by IOM in the first half of 2017, of which 73% were from the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Divisive quotas

The European resettlement scheme was passed by EU interior ministers in 2015 to reduce pressure on frontier countries like Italy and Greece. Mandatory quotas for accepting asylum seekers were introduced based on a country’s population size, GDP, asylum applications and unemployment rate.

EU members like Poland and Hungary have refused to accept asylum seekers under the mandatory quota while Hungary and Slovakia had lodged a complaint against the scheme that was recently rejected by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. While Slovakia accepted the judgment, Hungary and Poland continue to reject asylum seekers.

swissinfo.ch and agencies