Thursday

23rd May 2019

One year after launch, EU fails on relocation

EU-led efforts to relocate people seeking international protection from Italy and Greece to other EU states remain dismal.

The two-year plan, broadly hatched last September, aims to dispatch some 160,000 people arriving on Italian and Greek shores to other EU states.

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

But one year in and less than 3 percent of that total have found a new home outside either country. Some ended up in non-EU states like Norway and Switzerland, which are also part of the scheme.

As of earlier this month, just over 1,000 people left Italy and 3,493 people left Greece.

The European Commission, which masterminded the scheme, on Monday (5 September) urged national governments to step up efforts, but declined to answer questions on potential sanctions if they failed to meet the quotas.

"Relocations are still taking place, the last flights from Greece took place on the second of September," an EU commission spokeswoman told reporters in Brussels.

In July, the commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, sent a letter to the 28 EU interior ministers imploring them to relocate more people.

Since his appeal, in the period covering August and the first few days of September, member states took in 831 more people. Most went to France, Finland and the Netherlands.

Austria, Hungary, and Poland have yet to relocate anyone. Others, such as the Czech Republic, have relocated just handfuls of people.

France took the most, with 1,431 from Greece alone.

Pledges from EU states to help Greece with border staff and asylum experts have also failed to fully materialise.

Meanwhile, the issues and the numbers remain sensitive.

Hungary has launched an anti-immigrant campaign in the lead up to a national referendum on 2 October on whether to boycott the EU relocation scheme.

The German government is paying a political cost for taking in asylum seekers - on Sunday, the anti-immigrant AfD party beat chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party in regional elections.

In Austria, the EU faces the prospect of having its first far-right head of state, as the FPO party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, again leads opinion polls ahead of a presidential run-off on 2 October.

Greece returns

Some 50,000 asylum seekers and migrants remain stuck in Greece amid a recent spike in arrivals on the Greek islands since the failed military coup in Turkey in July.

But the EU commission remains intent on getting Greece to start accepting returns from other member states before the end of the year.

Last December, it announced that Greece would return to the so-called Dublin regulation.

The law largely requires the member state where an asylum seeker first entered to process the application. Many slip through and lodge their applications in places like Germany or Sweden instead.

The same law allows EU states to return those people back to the country where they first entered.

Returns to Greece were suspended in 2011 following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on inhumane conditions. But the commission, along with Germany, want that reversed.

Orderly system

"What we want to have is an orderly system whereby refugees who enter Europe have asylum claims treated by the first country they enter into," said the EU commission on Monday.

Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere was more explicit.

On Sunday, he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Greece must improve its handling of refugees.

"This must have consequences that will enable refugees to be sent back to Greece according to the Dublin regulations," he said.

This article originally stated that 65 people had been relocated in August and the start of September. This is incorrect. The correct figure is 831. This article was updated at 12:25 on 6 September 2016.

EU warns Hungary over Afghan refugees

Budapest tried and failed last week to deport three families to Afghanistan, and is accused of denying food to others stuck in its transit zone. The European Commission says it is taking the allegations "quite seriously."

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us