Saturday

23rd Sep 2017

EU deadline on refugee pledges misses mark

  • Avramopoulos (r) is set to unveil migrant proposal at the end of September. (Photo: European Commission)

A looming deadline for the EU states to commit to their pledges on how many refugees they will resettle appears to have shifted.

The EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told reporters in Brussels that he had pressed interior ministers on Thursday (14 September) to come forward with numbers ahead of a deadline initially set during the summer.

Asked if the Friday (15 September) deadline would be met and whether he was happy with pledges he had received so far - if any - he said the issue would be discussed at the end this month, when the EU commission plans to unveil new migration proposals.

"Encouraging new resettlement commitments will be part of a new migration package that will be presented later this month," he said.

Avramopoulos's comments follow statements by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg early in the week, where he backed UN calls for an additional 40,000 resettlement spaces in Europe.

"Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journey," Juncker told MEPs during his state of the union address on Wednesday.

Juncker had also pointed out that EU states last year had "resettled or granted asylum" to over 720,000 refugees - or three times as many as the United States, Canada and Australia combined.

But the figure raises some questions, in terms of resettlement, given that of the 125,835 resettled refugees worldwide in 2016, only 13,275 found a home in an EU member state. A resettled person is someone in need of protection who is brought to the EU from outside Europe.

EU states avoid Africa

The commission wants EU states to take in more people from places like Egypt, Libya, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan and had set Friday as a deadline to receive spaces for their arrival.

For the past few years, EU states have trailed behind the rest of the world in terms of resettlements from Africa.

Of the almost 39,000 people resettled from Africa last year, only around 1,800 ended up in Europe. The vast majority went to United States, followed by Canada and Australia.

The UN refugee agency call for extra pledges on top of the EU commission demands announced over the summer.

The commission in July had said that it would pay member states €10,000 for every person resettled, capping the fund at €377.5 million - or enough for 37,750 people.

Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Niger and Sudan are among the priority countries in the commission's grand resettlement campaign.

But while EU states have resettled some 17,000 people since 2015, most do not come from Africa.

Around 8,800 are Syrian nationals coming from Turkey, with others arriving from Lebanon, Jordan and, to a lesser extent, Egypt.

Niger - through which the vast majority of migrants travel to reach Libya - has only resettled one person since 2015. Similar figures are cited for Bukino Faso and Mali.

Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said on Monday that the "response has been very far from adequate."

He noted that only 6,700 refugees along the routes to Libya had been resettled so far this year.

EU to step up migrant returns

After Juncker's state of the union speech, the EU Commission is set to propose many new measures on migration before the end of the year, with an emphasis on returns, legal routes, and "solidarity" with African states.

Asylum seekers create EU 'limbo' nation

The number of asylum seekers "in limbo" in the EU is likely to be greater than the combined populations of Cyprus and Malta, estimates indicate.

Smugglers test migrant Black Sea route to Romania

Several hundred migrants and asylum seekers have arrived from Turkey to Romania in the past few weeks. Frontex, the EU's border agency, says the spike does not mean the route is reopening.

EU brushes off UN criticism of Libya policy

The European Commission is becoming more defensive of its policies following a string of criticisms from NGOs and the UN's high commissioner for human rights.

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