21st Mar 2018

UK gets more EU migrant cash than any other member state

  • The UK is spending some 60 percent of its EU money on returns (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The EU has given Britain more money from a migration management fund than any other member state, most of which it then used to eject failed asylum seekers.

Despite Italy and Greece having received the vast majority of arrivals over the years, with Germany settling some one million plus asylum-seekers, the UK still managed to secure a far bigger chunk from the EU purse.

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The money, or just over €3 billion, comes from the EU's asylum, migration and integration fund (Amif) and covers a period from 2014 to 2020.

Out of the total, some €2.39 billion is used to finance member state national programmes. Of that, the UK obtained 16.3 percent, followed by Italy (13.6), France (11.6) and Greece (11.3). Germany got around 9 percent.

The UK then poured almost 60 percent of the EU funding into returns, more than twice as much as most other member states, according to a joint-report by the UN Refugee Agency and the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (Ecre).

"That the UK received the largest allocation under AMIF shows the flaws in the distribution formula and the importance of using up-to-date figures that reflect actual need," said Ecre's the secretary-general Catherine Woollard, in an emailed statement on Thursday (25 January).

Returns, returns, returns

Money under AMIF is allocated to EU states using a distribution formula based on the number of asylum claims, the number of non-EU residents, and the number of returns effected during the three preceding years.

Other member states also received emergency assistance on top of the basic allocation under AMIF. But even with those in place, the UK still ranks as the second largest beneficiary after Italy.

The British focus on returns also appears to neglect other funding priorities under the AMIF fund like the support for legal migration, integration of refugees, and making sure national asylum systems are working properly.

The UK is not alone. Greece has spent nothing on integration and most EU states are also grappling with dysfunctional asylum systems, which are often riddled with administrative bottlenecks and delays.

Woollard said the EU fund is financing returns more than anything else.

"The EU is funding a large-scale removal programme, which has led to a harsh and scandal-ridden immigration detention system," she noted.

The NGO is instead demanding compulsory minimum allocations of 30 percent to integration, and 20 percent to asylum, and hopes to get funding out of government hands if they refuse to implement EU law and policy in these areas.

Such demands will likely meet resistance.

Earlier this week, Fabrice Leggeri, the head of the EU's border guard agency Frontex, told MEPs that they helped eject 14,000 people last year. The agency had organised 340 return flights in 2017. Three years ago, it organised 39 flights.

"Within three years, we almost multiplied by ten the number of flights and we multiplied by six the number of returns," he said, describing the Frontex as a law enforcement agency.

The focus on returns is part of a wider EU migration strategy and was discussed by EU interior ministers in Sofia, also on Thursday.

"We spent a lot of time on this topic," Bulgaria's interior minister Valentin Radev told reporters after the meeting.

According to the European Commission, over 493,000 people were told the leave in 2016 but only around 45 percent actually left.

Despite the cash doled out to the UK, Britain's return rate stood at 58 percent in 2016, down from 76 percent in 2014.

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