EU interior ministers approve plan to relocate 120,000 refugees in Europe


A Europe-wide plan to relocate 120,000 refugees in the continent has been approved by European Union governments.

The proposal to resettle the refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary, which are seeing thousands of migrants arrive on a daily basis, were approved by a majority of the 28 EU interior ministers.

Britain is not required to take part in the scheme as it is not part of the Schengen "borderless" area and Home Secretary Theresa May reaffirmed her opposition to it ahead of the Brussels summit.

Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic voted against the relocation scheme, while Finland abstained, but it was passed by a majority of EU states at the Brussels summit.

David Cameron is expected to discuss the scheme with French president Francois Hollande when the pair meet at Chequers tonight ahead of an EU leaders' summit on the refugee crisis tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is also hoping to raise his proposed renegotiation of Britain's EU membership with Mr Hollande but the French have been among the countries most sceptical about his demands for change.

Mr Cameron's attempts to win support have not been helped by his refusal to sign up to the Franco-German refugee resettlement plan.

Britain has agreed to take in 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees over the next five years but will take them direct from the refugee camps bordering the war-ravaged country.

Mr Cameron is expected to use tomorrow's summit to urge EU leaders to do more in the region, including tackling people-smuggling gangs.

Conservative spokesman for home affairs in the European Parliament Timothy Kirkhope said forcing the issue through with a vote rather than unanimous approval will alienate some major EU countries.

He said: "My greatest fear is that forcing such a divisive issue to a vote will have negative consequences in the long run. All 28 EU countries need to work together to manage this crisis and alienating major European states makes finding common solutions even harder.

"This is not a long term solution to this crisis; it is a sticking plaster, and the way it has been handled diminishes much of the good will that will be needed to find genuine long term and more permanent solutions.

"We hear a lot about 'solidarity' in the EU. Enforcing a plan on a country that is strongly opposed to it is not solidarity, it is compulsion."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond insisted Britain's refusal to participate in the resettlement scheme does not mean it is not helping to alleviate the refugee crisis.

He tweeted: "UK's JHA opt-out not opt-out from addressing #migration; UK largest EU donor to Syria crisis".