Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

EU urges countries to speed up migrant relocation

  • Only 1,145 refugees have been relocated from greece and Italy out of the pledged 160,000 (Photo: Vadim Ghirda)

The European Commission on Tuesday (12 April) called on member states to urgently step up their efforts to relocate refugees from Greece to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

The EU executive said in a report that the progress of relocating refugees from Greece and Italy since a previous report mid-March had been “unsatisfactory.”

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“EU member states need to urgently deliver on their political and legal commitment to relocate persons in need of international protection from Greece and Italy,” migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said in a statement.

“Relocation efforts have to be increased dramatically to reply to the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and to prevent any deterioration of the situation in Italy,” he added.

In March, the commission set a target to relocate at least 6,000 people within a month, but only 208 persons have been given refuge in a new country in that period.

The total number of relocated applicants from Greece and Italy since the scheme was launched in September is 1,145 - 530 from Italy and 615 from Greece.

Based on two EU Council decisions in 2015, 160,000 refugees should be relocated from the two frontline countries to other EU member states over two years.

Eight countries, Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia have not relocated any refugees.

France and Finland have relocated the most people - 379 and 246, respectively.

Hungary and Slovakia, who were outvoted at the council meeting in September, have now challenged the mandatory relocation quotas at the EU’s top court.

The commission said that between 35,000 and 40,000 people in Greece would be eligible for relocation.

Austria in February put a cap on asylum seekers, prompting border closures along the Western Balkan route used by migrants and leaving some 53,000 people stuck in Greece, most of them in dire conditions.

Austria is now planning to reintroduce border checks along part of its border with Italy amid concern that migrants would shift their main route from Greece to Italy.

According to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency, 10,833 people arrived in Italy in March and April, compared to only 3,828 in February.

Resettlement

The EU’s resettlement policy has been slightly more successful, as 5,677 displaced people in need of international protection were given refuge in 15 countries since the scheme started last summer.

Most were Syrians who came from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

There are still 16,800 remaining places. The commission has proposed to make 54,000 more available.

Under an EU-Turkey deal, EU countries will take in Syrian refugees directly from Turkey for every Syrian returned there who crossed to the Greek islands illegally.

Within that "one-for-one" scheme 37 Syrians were resettled to Germany, 11 to Finland and 31 to the Netherlands so far.

Failed relocation scheme to be used in EU-Turkey plan

In a preparatory document seen by EUobserver, EU Council president Tusk proposes that the EU merge its policy to relocate asylum seekers from Italy and Greece into a broader draft agreement with Turkey to reduce migrant flows.

EU refugee relocation grinds to near halt

Two months after agreement, only 160 refugees have been relocated from Greece and Italy, with just two EU "hotspots" out of 12 up and running.

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.

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