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24th Jul 2021

EU leaders to agree migrant relocation, clash on numbers

  • Draft EU summit conclusions back plans to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers over a two-year period (Photo: IOM.int)

Member states appear to be edging towards an agreement to relocate asylum seekers by end of July, according to a leaked EU document obtained by this website.

The document dated Monday (22 June) outlines the draft conclusions of EU summit leaders meeting in Brussels later this week.

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The plans, originally floated by the European commission, call for a binding distribution of 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece over a two-year period based on criteria like GDP and population size.

But mandatory redistribution has been resisted by a number of member states, including France and eastern member states.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia over the weekend announced their opposition to the binding nature of the plans.

They insist on a voluntary scheme although the numbers relocated in each would be relatively small compared to Germany (8,763) and France (6,752). Slovakia, for instance, would accept 784.

Interior ministers in Luxembourg last week remained split on the issue with one EU source telling this website that “we don’t have a real result, we don’t have real decision on this”.

The draft paper avoids any reference to voluntary or mandatory.

Instead, it notes a “rapid adoption by the Council” and that “member states will agree by the end of July on the distribution of such persons”.

The UK and Ireland will have up until August to decide if they want to participate. Both countries have special “opt-in” rights in the area of freedom, security and home affairs – including everything that concerns asylum and migration.

Denmark, for its part, has an “opt-out” clause and doesn’t participate at all in justice and home affairs issues.

The careful language in the draft suggests that while the relocation scheme itself will be mandatory, the distribution figures for each member state is not and will be up for discussion.

It says “return, readmission and reintegration policies” must be stepped up to combat “illegal immigration and will help discourage people from risking their lives.”

It asks the European commission to come up with a plan by July on how the EU’s border agency Frontex can help with the returns.

“All tools shall be mobilised to promote readmission of illegal migrants to countries of origin and transit,” notes the paper.

The EU has 17 readmission agreements. Around 425,000 people were issued with return decisions in 2013. Of those, some 167,000 left.

It also says member states will agree to resettle 20,000 refugees.

Steve Peers, a professor of EU and human rights law at the University of Essex, described the draft conclusions as “remarkable.”

"It is remarkable that member states (if this draft is accepted) are indeed willing to accept the relocation of 40,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, and 20,000 resettled refugees,” he told Statewatch.

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