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EU Refugee Plan: Countries Could Face Huge Fines For Rejected Asylum-Seekers

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SICILY REFUGEES
Migrants wait to disembark from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station vessel ' Phoenix ' in the harbor of Augusta, Sicily, Southern Italy, Saturday, May 9, 2015. European Union plans to introduce a quota system obliging countries to share the burden of settling refugees unraveled Friday as member nations began rejecting the scheme. (AP Photo/Francesco Malavolta) | ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BRUSSELS — European Union countries that refuse to accept refugees under proposals to overhaul the EU's failed asylum laws could face large fines for each asylum seeker rejected.

The penalties are part of a European Commission plan to be made public Wednesday to more evenly share the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and violence in places like Syria, with the current asylum system on the verge of collapse.

One document seen by The Associated Press shows that the fines — dubbed a "solidarity contribution'' — could total 250,000 euros ($287,300) for each asylum seeker a country turns down. Officials said the total could still change ahead of the final decision expected later Wednesday.

The plan still has to be accepted by a large majority of member countries — around two-thirds under the bloc's qualified majority system — and EU lawmakers. The fine will prove controversial as some countries already vehemently oppose the current EU scheme to share 160,000 refugees in Greece and Italy. Hungary has even moved to hold a referendum on the issue.

Greece and Italy over-burdened

Under present EU laws, people seeking international protection in Europe must apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive. That effectively means over-burdened Greece and Italy, and many of their EU partners have failed to help them cope.

The new scheme would kick in automatically once a country comes under high migration pressure. Other member states would take in a share of any asylum seekers — not people trying to escape poverty or looking for jobs — calculated from each nation's population and economic strength based on gross domestic product.

But members could choose not to take part for 12 months.

"The member state which temporarily does not take part in the corrective allocation must make a solidarity contribution of 250,000 euros per applicant," according to the text, which is a draft legal proposal to EU states and the European Parliament for the plan.

A new super EU asylum agency would also be set up and be responsible for supervising the way the whole system is working.

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