The Netherlands, which holds the European Union presidency, is working on a plan for a core group of member states to accept migrants and refugees from Turkey, if migrants who already arrived are sent back to Greece, a Dutch politician said Thursday.
Diederik Samsom, the leader of the Socialist PvdA party, a key partner in the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, told De Volkskrant newspaper that current EU plans were not working because many member states refuse to take in refugees.
He said the Dutch plan would require a core group of nations to accept about 250,000 refugees coming from Turkey in exchange for sending back to Greece hundreds of thousands of migrants who have already arrived.
Samsom said that returns could happen quickly once Turkey gains full status as 'safe country' for migrants and refugees.
If the core group of EU nations voluntarily accepts the refugees, the 28-nation EU as a whole would have to bear the financial burden, Samsom said.
More refugees drown
Meanwhile, the bodies of at least 18 migrants who drowned when their boat capsized were recovered Thursday off the coast of the Greek island of Samos. Authorities say 10 people were rescued. Most of the fatalities were children.
The bodies of seven migrants - two of them children - were recovered Wednesday after their boat capsized off the island of Kos.
More than one million people from war-torn nations flooded into Europe last year, making it the continent's worst migration crisis since World War II. Many of those arrived in Greece after making a dangerous voyage from Turkey across the Aegean Sea.
Several prosperous countries in northern Europe have taken measures to discourage the migration of people who are fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
As recently as Thursday, Sweden said it is preparing to deport about 80,000 asylum seekers, about half of the 163,000 people who entered the country in record waves last year.
Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told a Swedish newspaper that the refugees will be expelled because the applications for asylum were being rejected. The rejected applicants will be able to leave voluntarily, or could be forcibly sent back home. Sweden was a top destination for refugees because of its long-standing open borders policy.
Earlier this week, Denmark's parliament passed the so-called "jewelry bill" aimed at deterring people from seeking asylum there, in a move that sparked condemnation by rights groups. The new law allows authorities to seize asylum-seekers' property valued at more than $1,450 to help defray the costs of their upkeep.
Switzerland has started taking valuables worth more than $985, while the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg secures valuables above $380. Other areas in southern Europe have been reported to follow a similar practice.