Saturday

18th Sep 2021

Member states lag behind on refugee pledges

  • Refugees and migrants are going to Croatia and Slovenia after Hungary sealed its borders (Photo: icrc.org)

EU member states made a commitment to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy but have made only 854 pledges to date.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday (22 October) urged national governments to step up their undertakings on the two-year plan to distribute Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis.

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All three nationalities have a 75 percent or higher asylum recognition rate, a precondition for the relocation scheme.

Juncker said its time to "act because there is urgency".

Speaking at a centre-right EPP conference in Madrid, he said member states had also only delivered on €275 million out of the €2.3 billion aid package.

"The migrant crisis which we are experiencing will not be over at Christmas, it is a crisis that will last and long-term action is needed", he said.

854 relocations

Nine states have so far agreed to take in 854 relocated asylum seekers.

Belgium pledged 30 spots, Finland 200, France 40, Germany 10, Lithuania 4, Luxembourg 90, Portugal 130, Spain 50, and Sweden 300.

The first batch of 19 Eritrean asylum seekers left Italy earlier this month, bound for Sweden.

On Wednesday, another 19 Syrians and 49 Eritreans left for Finland and Sweden. The Eritreans are going to Tornio in northern Finland and the Syrians to Lulea in Sweden.

Mahmoud, a Syrian who was relocated from Italy with his wife and children, said they are looking for a new life.

"I came from Syria with my family because soldiers came to our house and we had to flee", he told the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Aman, an Eritrean who left for Finland, said it took him three months to reach Europe and had crossed by boat from Libya.

"This is not an easy choice for them because the programme is new and they were not expecting to be relocated", said an IOM coordination director.

EU agencies staff shortfall

The European Commission also wants more experts from the EU's border agency Frontex and the European asylum support office (EASO) dispatched to so-called hotspots in Greece and Italy.

Both agencies are helping national authorities in designated areas where people first land to screen and identify those in need of international protection.

Frontex had requested an additional 775 border guards but so far only 291 have been confirmed.

All member states except Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovenia replied.

EASO requested 374 but has received only 145.

All member states except Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland and Portugal replied.

12,000 refugees stream into Slovenia

Juncker's comments come on the back of the arrival of some 12,000 migrants who have crossed into Slovenia from Croatia over the past 24 hours, reports Reuters.

Slovenia has sent out a request for help as thousands more are expected.

Austria, Germany, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are set to send Slovenia police reinforcements.

Some 217,000 asylum seekers have entered Croatia since September and started heading towards Slovenia after Hungary sealed its border last week.

The European Commission has called for a summit on Sunday (October 25) to discuss the flow of refugees in the Western Balkans towards mainland EU.

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