European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced Wednesday that 120,000 additional refugees will be distributed throughout the European Union through binding quotas.
Juncker urged the 28-member EU to increase aid and coordination during his first State of the Union address at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France, where he offered a "swift, determined and comprehensive" response amid the recent migration crisis.
"The refugee crisis will not simply go away," Juncker told EU lawmakers. "It is high time to act. We are fighting against the Islamic State, why are we not ready to accept those who are fleeing Islamic State?"
Germany supports compulsory refugee quotas, but some EU countries oppose. Other proposals by Juncker include a permanent relocation system to handle future crises, the proposal of a list of "safe countries" where migrants would return to and improved management of external borders.
"I'm strongly in favor of allowing asylum seekers to work and to earn ... whilst their applications are being processed," Juncker told lawmakers, adding that it was "not a time to take fright."
Juncker also proposed improving the legal system on EU migration and a review of the Dublin Regulation, which is the EU rule on refugees that says asylum seekers must register in the first EU member country in which they arrive.
Under Juncker's proposals, the number of refugees allocated to each country would depend on that country's gross domestic product, population, unemployment rate and asylum applications already processed.
In May, the EU announced plans to absorb some 40,000 migrants.
"It's 160,000 refugees in total that Europeans have to take into their arms and I really hope that this time everyone will be on board -- no rhetoric, action is what is needed," Juncker said.
About 60 percent of refugees currently in Italy, Greece and Hungary will be relocated to Germany, France and Spain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Juncker's proposals, but warned that any refugee distribution agreements must be binding for all EU members. About 500,000 migrants have entered Europe in 2015.
By Andrew V. Pestano
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