Britain is conspicuously absent from a long list of European countries expected to take in up to 160,000 refugees who are stalled in Greece, Hungary and Italy as they seek asylum throughout the continent. The United Kingdom has said it will accept 20,000 refugees over the next five years — but only directly from the Middle East — as part of a program that is separate from that of its European neighbors, to other leaders’ apparent distaste.
The European Union agreed in late September on a quota system to accept up to 120,000 refugees, after months of wrangling over which countries would take how many. An additional 40,000 refugees had been granted resettlement slots earlier in the year. Germany would take more than 31,000, France more than 24,000 and Spain nearly 15,000, NPR reported. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany could accept at least 800,000 refugees in 2015.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that Britain’s plan would reduce incentives that many have claimed are responsible for attracting more than half a million people from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and other countries of conflict to Europe this year alone, in perilous journeys undertaken by sea and over land. Some 3,000 of them have died seeking refuge.
“There’s millions left in the region, and we should not be encouraging those people to make the journey,” Cameron told CBS News Tuesday. He has previously called for Europe to “do more to return migrants” to their home countries.
Many European leaders have criticized Cameron’s approach, because by taking only refugees that are still in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey or other Middle Eastern countries, the U.K. does little to alleviate the humanitarian crisis resulting from the refugee influx to Europe.
"Germany is a country willing to take people in, but refugees can be received in all countries of the European Union in such a way that they can find refuge from civil war and from persecution," Merkel said in September.
Britain is not a part of the Schengen zone, a visa-free travel area of 26 European countries that had eliminated border controls, although that changed when Germany, Hungary and other countries put up barriers or implemented border controls in September to quell the flow of refugees.
The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania were opposed to the quota plan, with Prague countering that the quota system denied countries the right to choose their own asylum policies, but Germany and France supported it.
As of August, the U.K. had resettled 216 Syrian refugees since the war in Syria began in 2011, the Washington Post reported.