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European Union (EU) representatives have once again dismally failed to show collective leadership and respond to the global refugee crisis, said Amnesty International following an emergency meeting of interior ministers in Brussels.

EU interior ministers met to discuss a raft of recent European Commission proposals, including an emergency relocation mechanism to alleviate pressure on frontline member states, where refugees are suffering the fall-out of a crumbling EU asylum system. The meeting ended with the adoption of a proposal from May on the relocation of a mere 40,000 people from frontline member states, but Ministers were unable to reach agreement on a more ambitious proposals to relocate a further 120,000 people.

“The measures that were on the table were piecemeal at best, and a far cry from a comprehensive EU response to a global refugee crisis, and ministers could not even agree on these,” said Iverna McGowan, acting director for Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

“As the refugee crisis mounts with every passing day, the EU’s reaction has been paralyzed, not resolute.”

After extensive discussions, ministers did agree to establish a temporary and exceptional relocation mechanism for 40,000 people over two years from the frontline member states Italy and Greece to other member states. But this agreement was reached following months of discussion (the commission made the proposal in May) and leaves tens of thousands more refugees stranded in dire conditions in the frontline member states.

Ministers failed to reach agreement to take forward the proposal to relocate 120,000 additional people, deferring it to a further council meeting in October. In addition, the relocation proposals more generally include no allowance for the will of the person who is being relocated. This raises serious concerns around potential detention and coercive measures that could be put in place to force people to move to member states where they may have no family and limited integration prospects.

Amnesty International has put forward a detailed and concrete set of proposals to overhaul the EU’s failing asylum system. This includes measures to ensure that people in need of international protection can reach Europe through safe and legal means, and live in Europe safety and with dignity.

“The EU is offering relocation as the solution to the refugee crisis. Inadequate implementation aside, relocation is not a sustainable solution to help asylum seekers and refugees,” said Iverna McGowan.

“The gravity of the situation in the countries of first arrival can best be prevented by access to the wider EU through safe and legal routes and the mutual recognition of refugee status. We need a complete rethink of the EU’s approach to asylum, not new barriers and yet more squabbling over quotas.”