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19th Jan 2019

Fewer refugees to be relocated as EU revises targets

  • Syrian refugees in Turkey (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU is reducing its overall target of how many asylum seekers need to be relocated from Italy and Greece by September.

Governments around the EU had committed to initially relocating 160,000 under a two-year scheme that was later amended to around 98,000.

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That figure is likely to drop again to just over 33,000, given that the number of people eligible for the scheme is far lower than the initially stated ceiling.

"The number of those who are eligible for relocation in Italy and in Greece is indeed turning out to be lower than the original targets," EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters on Wednesday (12 April).

It means that even if EU states don't meet their stated quotas, they are still likely to relocate those who have been registered.

People who are eligible usually have a high chance of receiving asylum, but the nationalities of the individuals change over time.

Since earlier this month, only people from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, British overseas countries and territories, Eritrea, Grenada, Guatemala, Syria and Yemen are eligible.

The EU commission is now calling the scheme a success even though only 16,340 people have been relocated as of 10 April.

Some 14,000 people in Greece and around 3,500 in Italy are registered and ready to be relocated.

"It is absolutely possible to relocate all those eligible in Greece and in Italy by the end of September," said Avramopoulos.

"The numbers I gave you today proves finally that this scheme has started working," he said.

But unless far more people become eligible for the scheme, a total of only around 33,840 will be relocated by the end of September.

Avramopoulos also listed a number of recommendations to "reach this objective" of relocating "eligible" asylum seekers.

He then praised Austria for agreeing to take in 50 children from Italy after Vienna had asked for a one-year exemption earlier this year.

When pressed on whether the amended 98,000 target for September is no longer valid, an EU commission official said the ceiling figure had been based on the migrant flows at the time of the decision almost two years ago.

The official noted that times have changed, with the number of people leaving from Turkey to reach the Greek Aegean islands no longer being a big issue.

Even though some 25,000 people arrived in Italy since the start of the year, national authorities are struggling to get people into the scheme, given the administrative bottlenecks, delays in response times, and stringent demands from receiving states.

Some EU member states will only take single mothers with children and refuse single men.

Others, such as Bulgaria, refuse Eritreans even though 21,000 arrived in Italy alone last year.

States are also refusing people over security issues, despite having already been vetted by the Greek and Italian authorities.

Logistical restrictions on flights demanded by EU countries only serve to complicate matters further.

Some, like Germany and France, only want monthly transfers of people to take place at the end of the month on chartered flights.

Others demand transfers that are scattered throughout the month, but only on commercial flights.

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Hungary wants the EU to pay it some €400 million as a display of solidarity for having erected walls and fences along its border with Serbia and Croatia to keep out migrants.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

NGO Mediterranean rescue standoff exposes EU rift

Conditions on the Dutch flagged Sea-Watch 3, an NGO boat with 32 rescued migrants onboard, continue to deteriorate - as EU states refuse to take them in. The youngest on board is a one-year old infant.

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