Tuesday

22nd Oct 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. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  2. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  3. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  4. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  5. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  6. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  7. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  8. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  2. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  3. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  4. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  5. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  6. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  7. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  8. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us