On Wednesday 21 September a majority of EU Interior ministers agreed a plan to relocate 120,000 refugees across Europe over the next two years, allocating people to countries by a quota system.
Germany, with the largest population, will take the lion's share.
Slovakia, for instance, voted against the plan, and says it will defy it, although it will only be asked to take 2,000 people. And Finland, a richer country, which will be asked to take around 3,000, abstained in the vote. The plan has stirred up political reaction, especially in Hungary, where the right-wing government has built a fence to keep refugees out.
The UK has opted to stay out of the quota system; the Tories have said they will take up to 20,000 people over five years — a token number for a country the wealth and size of the UK.
The UN refugee agency say, plausibly, that the number set for relocation of refugees is unrealistic. There are many thousands more fleeing Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. On the other hand, it appears likely that Germany will take in many more people than those allocated under the scheme.
Nonetheless, flawed and inadequate though this plan is, it is a show of collective solidarity. At least, it is one that we should use in the labour movement to condemn the government’s failure to take part, or to take any action to help refugees or avoid the deaths of so many in the Mediterranean this year.
We can use these developments to campaign for the right of any Syrian refugee, and others currently in Europe, who want to come to the UK, for safety, or to make a better life, to be allowed do so.