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21st Jan 2018

EU to spend €2.4bn on migrant schemes

  • The Hungarian-Serbian border recently became a new front line (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

The European Commission will give €2.4 billion to member states for border control and reception of asylum seekers, it announced Monday (10 August).

The money will be disbursed from 2014-2020 to 19 countries through 23 national programmes which the commission approved in recent weeks.


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Italy and Greece, two countries receiving the most migrants from Africa and the Middle-East, will get €558 million and €474 million, respectively.

Other important receivers are Spain with €521 million, and Sweden with €154 million.

The budget announced by the commission is not new money. It is part of the €7 billion budget earmarked for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) for the 2014-2020 period.

These funds are designed to help member states in managing their borders, handling asylum applications, and enforcing returns, as well as fighting trans-border crime.

Timely moment

"Twenty two national programmes were already approved in March, and an additional 13 programmes will be approved later this year," said the commission in a statement.

The programmes "are prepared and implemented by the member states themselves," a spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, said at a press briefing Monday.


The announcement comes at a timely moment to show the EU is active on the migrant issue.

"The question is approaching the issue with eyes wide open, and we continue to work very closely with the member states to address this challenge as best as we can," Bertaud added.

Migrant incidents are reported daily off the Italian coast, on Greek islands, in Calais (France) and at the Hungarian-Serbian border, while the commission has been at loggerheads with member states over the management of the unprecedented arrivals.

According to the UN refugee agency, 224,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, including 124,000 to Greece - a 750 percent increase compared to last year.

Over 2,000 more died while trying to cross the sea, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The commission presented in March an Agenda on migration but one of its main objectives, the mandatory relocation of 40,000 asylum seekers between EU countries, was rejected by member states.

EU countries accepted only to relocate 32,000 asylum seekers on a voluntary basis.

The scheme, as well as the resettlement of 20,000 Syrian refugees, "will be implemented through the AMIF national programmes," the commission said in its statement.

Courage

In an unusual comment, the Commission said on 6 August that what the EU "need[s] now is the collective courage to follow through with concrete action on words that will otherwise ring empty".

"It is easy to cry in front of your TV set when witnessing these tragedies. It is harder to stand up and take responsibility", the EU executive said in a statement issued by commissioners Frans Timmermans, Federica Mogherini, and Dimitris Avramopoulos.

It emerged last week that immigration has become Europeans' main concern, ahead of the economic and social situation.

UK and Germany talk tough on migrants

The British and German governments have called for a new crackdown on migrants, in statements denounced as populist rhetoric by left-wing politicians.

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