Amid the mounting refugee crisis, as well as pressure from around the world, EU leaders are scrambling for solutions to mitigate the situation. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing war-torn, impoverished, and unstable countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea to seek asylum and better lives in Europe. Acknowledging that they have a responsibility to help, leaders have spoken out about how many refugees each country will take. In order to effectively curb and ameliorate the crisis, the EU's 28 nations will have to share the task and formulate a EU-wide plan, an idea that some countries are more on board with than others.
To give some sense of the crisis's escalation, Germany alone is expected to see more than 800,000 refugees in 2015, which is four times the number it recorded in 2014. Instead of being daunted by this figure and responding with even more stringent restrictions, Germany has really stepped up to the plate in accepting refugees, backing a plan to help redistribute 160,000 asylum-seekers throughout the EU. Germany has emphasized that it cannot shoulder the responsibility alone, nor should the EU rely on just a few of its most economically strong countries.
At a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for mandatory refugee quotas to distribute the number of refugees fairly among the EU states:
This joint European asylum system cannot just exist on paper but must also exist in practice - I say that because it lays out minimum standards for accommodating refugees and the task of registering refugees.... I personally, and we spoke about this, am of the opinion that we should not now outbid each other with threats. We should speak to each other in a spirit of mutual respect.
As the EU nations continue to solidify an official plan to handle the refugee crisis, here is a breakdown of how many people each country is accepting into its borders. Not surprisingly, Germany is leading the pack.
Of the 160,000 refugees that are part of the quota plan, Germany agreed to take in 31,000. In addition, Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Tuesday that the country could take as many as 500,000 people per year for several years. He told ZDF public television:
I believe we could surely deal with something in the order of half a million for several years.
According to a chart of refugee acceptance rates by Eurostat and The Economist, Sweden comes in second overall behind Germany with the total number of refugees accepted, but comes in first by proportion to its population: 317.8 refugees for 100,000 people in Sweden.
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron told members of Parliament that the UK will accept 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020, saying, "We will continue to show the world that this country is a country of extra compassion, always standing up for our values and helping those in need."
French President Francois Hollande has agreed to participate in Merkel's quota system, vowing to take in 24,000 people over the next two years.
While it is unclear at this time how many refugees Italy will accept as part of the EU-wide quotas, the plan itself is designed in part to relieve Italy of some of its responsibility. Because of its location on the Mediterranean, the country, along with Greece, has taken in a disproportionate amount of refugees. According to The Independent, Italy has rescued more than 115,544 people this year alone.
Like Italy, Greece has been hosting a staggering number of refugees, with 17,000 refugees currently staying on the island of Lesbos alone, which has a population of only 85,000. The Guardian reports that Greece received more than 50,000 refugees just in July, and about 200,000 refugees have come to the country from Turkey.