Wednesday

19th Jun 2019

EU refugee relocation grinds to near halt

  • Thousands continue to arrive on a daily basis on the Greek island of Lesbos (Photo: Brainbitch)

The slow pace of registering and relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other member states is frustrating EU-led efforts to get a grip on broader migration issues.

Launched in September, the two-year plan to relocate 160,000 people in need of international protection remains mired in administrative, technical, and political delays.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The relocation figure is dwarfed by the number of people asking for asylum in Europe. Greece alone saw 758,000 arrive so far this year.

As of Monday (7 December), only 30 have been relocated from Greece and another 130 from Italy.

Member states appear reluctant to announce any more pledges, while others are taking weeks to confirm matches. The Visegrad states - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia - remain opposed.

The task is further complicated by the lack of so-called hotspots, where EU teams are supposed to be deployed to help register arrivals.

One computer

Out of the five announced in Greece only the one in Lesbos has been declared operational. The zones are supposed to help sort and identify arrivals and determine who is eligible for protection.

In September, police in the port had only one computer to register thousands of people. A month later in October, some 135,000 arrived on the island, more than anywhere else.

Despite bad weather and the EU's €3 billion deal with Turkey, up to 3,500 continue to arrive daily on rubber boats from Turkey, with some Syrian refugees being intercepted at sea and set adrift by men in black masks. Turkey intercepted 3,000 people over a matter of days last week.

Plans are now being discussed to resettle UN-recognised refugees from Turkey to member states.

Details are to be proposed when the European Commission presents its plan to set up a European border and coast guard on 15 December. The scheme has already been endorsed by France and Germany after the two sent a letter of support to EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Meanwhile, backlogs on Lesbos are fuelling tension between refugees, police, and locals.

The Malta-based European Support Asylum Office (EASO) has seven people working on the island to help inform people of their rights. But the lack of experts, such as special interpreters, issues with red tape, limited accommodation, and lack of finger printing machines continue to pose problems.

One senior EU official said fewer people who are not entitled to protection are being returned.

"There has been a clear dip in returns,” Marteen Verwey told MEPs in the civil liberties committee. No other member state, aside from Italy, organised a single return flight in November.

On the frontline

Last week, the EU's border agency Frontex and EU police agency Europol signed a data sharing agreement in their efforts to crack down on migrant smuggling. The illicit business from Turkey to the EU is said to be worth billions.

Greek authorities, for their part, are planning to start work this week on getting the remaining hotspots up and running amid threats that Greece would be booted out of the passport-free Schengen travel zone.

"We are on the frontline and therefore we cannot have a good system asylum and relocation unless we realise that the gate to Europe isn't Greece, the real gateway here is Turkey and that is something that has to be settled,” said Anthi Karangeli, the Greek authorities' hotspot coordinator.

The European Commission, for its part, also wants Turkey to tighten its visa regime to prevent people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh entering the country.

The relocation situation isn't much better in Italy, where Lampedusa is the only functional hotspot out of six announced.

EU urges countries to speed up migrant relocation

Out of the promised 160,000, EU countries have so far took in 1,145 refugees from Greece and Italy, as the EU commission warns of humaniatian crisis in Greece and the deterioration of the situation in Italy.

News in Brief

  1. New socialist group leader to push for Timmermans
  2. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  3. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  4. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  5. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini
  6. EU blames Sudan junta for killings and rapes
  7. Report: EU may suspend Turkey customs union talks
  8. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction
  2. Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court
  3. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  4. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  5. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  6. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  7. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  8. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us