Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

EU states breaking pledges on migration

Member states are lagging behind on political promises to mitigate Europe's biggest refugee crisis in recent history.

In late September, EU leaders said they would shore up funding for humanitarian aid and trust funds as well as send in more national experts for EU agencies working in Italy and Greece.

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But only a handful have so far delivered on helping to match the European Commission’s budget plans on migration and help Frontex, the EU’s border agency, and EASO, the EU’s asylum support office.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans on Wednesday (14 October) said “the response is far below what is required”.

Timmermans said that the total spending by the EU on migration for 2015 and 2016 now amounts to around € 9.2 billion after amending the budget by adding another €900 million for next year to help manage the crisis.

“It is now high time for the member states to match these commitments. They’ve promised to do that, they should deliver. The Commission is worried about the gap between what was agreed in September and what has been put on the table until now”, he told reporters.

The three-week pledge gap comes ahead of the EU’s fourth summit on migration this year in Brussels on Thursday.

EU leaders are expected to discuss, among other issues, the funding shortfall, the upcoming Africa conference in Malta, and the Dublin asylum rule, which determines who is responsible for processing applications.

George Patoulis, a Greek mayor of Marousi, a suburban city in the northeastern part of Athens, told this website that municipalities throughout the country are having to improvise due to lack of funds.

“If the municipalities and local communities don’t improvise, then the problem would be much much bigger”, said the centre-right Patoulis.

Several million euros in EU emergency funding were earmarked for Greece in September but Greece had not set up the administration at the time to receive it.

The money

Member states, for their part, are supposed to deliver €500 million into the Syria Trust Fund but have only pledged €8 million to date.

Another €1.8 billion was committed to the Africa Trust Fund. But only Germany, Spain, and Luxembourg have each contributed €3 million so far.

EU Council president Donald Tusk wants all the money pledged ahead of the conference with African states in Malta in mid-November.

But EU leaders are also lagging behind on money to help the UN agency for refugees (UNCHR) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP earlier this year had to stop handing out food vouchers to thousands of Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan because of it.

The plan is reach €1 billion (including the EU contribution of €500 million) but as of 23 September, member states have only come up with €275 million.

Frontex and EASO

Frontex said it needed 775 additional experts to help with screening arriving asylum seekers in Greece and Italy. Belgium, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and Sweden offered 48.

EASO wanted 374 experts to help provide information to the new arrivals. Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain offered 81.

Both agencies are helping in the distribution of asylum seekers to other member states at so-called hotspots.

People not entitled to asylum and who have not applied for it are returned. Last week, Italy returned 28 Tunisians and 35 Egyptians.

But there is still some confusion among member states on whether a hotspot is a place or a process, according to one senior EU official.

So far, only the hotspot on the Italian island of Lampedusa is fully operational. Others are slated for Augusta, Porte Empedocle, Pozzallo, Taranto and Trapani.

Around 100 asylum seekers from Italy are set to be relocated to Finland, France, Germany, and Portugal this week.

Greece, for its part, should have its first hotspot up and running this week in Lesbos. Others are planned in Chios, Samso, and Leros.

“We are also hoping to launch the first relocation out of Greece if not this week then next week”, said a Commission official.

Luxembourg is set to receive the first batch of relocated asylum seekers from Greece.

Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate

Issues of sovereignty remain entrenched following a proposal by the European Commission to expand the EU's border and coast guard, also known as Frontex, to 10,000. But EU leaders maintain a "basic consensus" of support had been reached.

EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

EU council president Donald Tusk wants to discuss deepening relations with authoritarian Egypt, as a model of migrant reduction, with EU heads of state and government at a meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Wednesday.

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