Saturday

16th Oct 2021

EU ministers prepare to resettle more Syrian refugees

Many more Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon may be resettled in the EU and other countries around the globe.

The plan is part of a broader declaration to be announced later this week when foreign affairs ministers gather in Luxembourg on Thursday (8 October) to discuss the flow of asylum seekers entering the EU from Turkey and the Western Balkans.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"It is for the international community, not just the EU", an EU official said on Monday (5 October).

Officials from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Western Balkans, along with non-EU countries like Norway, will also be in attendance for Thursday's meeting, which is scheduled to last less than two hours.

The talks follow warnings from a top official from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), who said that Europe needs to prepare itself if the conflict in Syria is not resolved.

Half a million Iraqis may also flee from the city of Mosul if government forces attempt to wrest control from Islamic State.

On a global scale, the agency says that up to 1 million people fleeing war need to be hosted, the highest figure in 30 years.

But countries around the world have so far only pledged to resettle fewer than 100,000 Syrian refugees since 2013.

Germany pledged to resettle the most at 38,500. The UK proposed 20,000, France 1,000, Spain 130, and Hungary 30, among others.

The figures are dwarfed by the 4 million Syrians eking out an existence in overcrowded camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

With no access to work and conditions worsening following a sharp funding shortfall to the World Food Progamme over the summer, many are seeking a future elsewhere.

The Associated Press reports that conditions are so bad at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan that some, with no means to pay smugglers, are now returning to Syria.

Others end up being smuggled from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek islands before heading up through Macedonia towards Croatia and Hungary.

Around 254 are known to have died crossing to the Greek islands. On Sunday, the bodies of two small children were found washed up on Kos.

It is hoped the bigger resettlement plan will help, in part, to undercut smuggler operations.

No numbers this time

But Thursday's ministerial in Luxembourg will not cite any specific numbers.

Instead, the broad declaration will ask for greater coordination and cooperation with Western Balkan countries, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and the EU.

"The aim of declaration is precisely to ensure that all countries act in a coordinated and cooperative manner and that is the main goal of [the] conference", said one EU official.

This includes stepping up border controls, the fight against organised crime, and the registration, reception and accommodation of asylum seekers in Western Balkan countries.

A second EU official said the conference is not a one-off but "is a process of engagement."

Concerns are now mounting that a recent escalation of the five-year war could force many more to flee Syria.

Last week, Russia began its aerial assault in Syria by bombing rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad's regime. And over the weekend, Turkish F-16 jets intercepted a Russian warplane after it violated Turkish airspace.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg on Monday said the airspace violation was "unacceptable".

"Russia's actions are not contributing to the security and stability of the region", he added.

The Thursday ministerial follows an official visit to Brussels by Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last week described Russian intervention into Syria as "a grave mistake".

The controversial leader is set to receive a €1 billion injection from the EU to improve refugee camp conditions.

But he also wants to carve out a "safe zone" for displaced people in northern Syria.

EU officials, for their part, oppose the safe zone scheme.

News in Brief

  1. Poland legalises refugee pushbacks
  2. Report: China's Xi to snub UK climate summit
  3. Norway killings 'appeared to be' Islamist 'terrorism'
  4. Le Pen vows to 'dismantle' wind-power plants
  5. Slovenia PM tweets antisemitic conspiracy theory
  6. Italy sentences ship captain for Libya pushback
  7. Polish PM and von der Leyen to clash in Brussels next week
  8. MEPs call for improved roaming rules

Libya to get new EU-funded boats despite crimes

The EU Commission is to deliver three new 'P150' patrol boats to the Libyan coast guard, despite a recent UN report citing possible crimes against humanity at Libyan detention centres.

Dozen ministers want EU to finance border walls

Interior ministers from 12 member states are demanding the EU finance border-wall projects to stop migrants entering through Belarus, in a further push towards a fortress Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. MEPs urge Sassoli to sue EU Commission on rule of law
  2. MEPs seek EU law on bogus anti-media litigation
  3. Africa seeks EU help on global vaccine-waiver
  4. Giant of 20th century European design recognised by EU
  5. Italy on edge as neo-fascists stir violence
  6. Gas-price spike will backfire on industry, energy guru says
  7. Scientists raise alarm on Greenland's ice-sheet loss
  8. EU calls for ban on Arctic oil and gas drilling

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us