Yesterday, on September 22nd, the EU Council of Ministers voted to adopt a decision to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, across EU Member States. It prioritises Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees, and will establish reception "hotspots" to screen and process incoming refugees. A European Council heads of state and government summit today will deliberate the political process and implications.
The plan will at last give a humane European response to the ongoing crisis, and it is a good first step. However, these governments have responded painfully slowly, while many lives have been lost, and suffering extended. I deplore our own government inaction on this subject, until public opinion swayed it, and its continued refusal to take a European approach to what is clearly a European problem. The establishment of asylum hotspots where refugees enter the EU has been long overdue, and much more must be done at a European level on common asylum procedures.
Over the summer recess I was a signatory to two letters urging the European Commission to act to relieve the plight of incoming refugees, and the Member States receiving them particularly in Greece, and to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in order to assist. I welcome that action is at last being taken.
As Jeremy Corbyn said in his first speech as Labour leader, "we are one world", and we must be guided by compassion, and a resolute long-term view of this situation, which will remain with us for some time, and have long-lasting impacts. It is often easy for the media to blame "Europe", but it is national governments, which must take clearer, bolder decisions, as part of the European process. We must remember that 70 years ago, millions of Europeans were refugees fleeing conflict in much the same way.
Citizens from across Europe have gotten involved, showing solidarity, and taking action to help refugees, welcome them, and make their voices heard in the most inspiring ways. Citizens who are appalled by the ongoing crisis must remain active, determined, and vocal, and set the public agenda. I applaud these active citizens' inspired, compassionate, practical and quick response.
I also welcome to the outcome of the European Council summit today, and hope that this will be the first step towards a long-term compassionate European response to the crisis.