A senior Conservative MEP has called for cool heads and British resolve in response to an expected call from the EU Commission for the UK to take a mandatory quota of refugees trying to reach Europe from North Africa.
Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative spokesman on justice and home affairs in the European Parliament and a former Immigration Minister, said any suggestion that the quotas were a done deal or that Britain would be forced to take the of thousands more asylum seekers were wide of the mark and "frankly, a little hysterical".
The Commission is due on Wednesday to announce its proposals for addressing the Mediterranean refugee crisis, but press reports today suggest they will include a plan for EU countries compulsory to share the burden of asylum seekers according to a quota system based on existing population, wealth and unemployment rates. One report includes speculation that Britain's queue of asylum seekers awaiting processing could double to 60,000.
Conservative MEPs are waiting to see the detail of the proposals, but they are concerned that legal migration and quotas will be like a sticking plaster on a leaking dam when it comes to stemming the flow of those wishing to reach Europe's shores. Nor will they stop human trafficking.
Instead they favour more concerted action where the problem is originating, by creating regional stability in North Africa and by providing assistance to those countries where migrants arrive.
Mr Kirkhope, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: "This looks like a ruse by the Commission to introduce more forms of legal migration, something which is always popular with Labour MEPs and others on the Left of the European Parliament. Legal migration and economic migration is something completely separate from genuine asylum seekers.
"Fortunately Conservative MEPs and a Conservative Government will be seeing to it that they don't have it all their way. Keeping control of the UK's asylum system is a priority us, and Commission wants does not mean commission gets.
"A headline saying 'Brussels forces Britain to accept Med migrants' is therefore wrong. This is no more than an opening bid by the Commissioners and we are a long way from any outcome. Hysteria and wild speculation are not the way to respond.
" The response of our Conservative Government and Conservative MEPs will, as always, be cool reflection followed by resolute defence of the UK's interests. That is what the British people voted for last week and that is what they will get."