Monday

14th Jun 2021

EU states abandon Italy on relocating asylum seekers

  • Ireland and Lithuania have each agreed to take 10. Luxembourg has also offered to help. (Photo: noborder network)

Calls in early May for EU states to help relocate asylum seekers from Italy have largely been ignored.

The European Commission had appealed for national capitals to help Italy, after some 1,400 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Discussions are still ongoing, and we encourage member states to show solidarity and participate in relocation efforts," a European Commission spokesperson said on Friday (4 June), via email.

Ireland was the first to step forward, offering to take in 10 people on 20 May.

Now Lithuania has agreed to take in 10 as well, while Luxembourg has also expressed willingness to help. It is unclear how many the Grand Duchy will take.

In a tweet, Lithuania's prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė linked her decision to "an increased illegal migration via Belarus."

The unwillingness by EU states to help out Rome may be due, in part, to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it is also political, given past efforts to relocate asylum seekers have been met with resistance.

The overall figures, and lack of solidarity with Italy ,does not bode well for Greece and Malta either, amid speculation more will arrive there over the summer months.

Between January and April of this year, the total number of crossings on the Western Mediterranean route more than doubled, to 11,600.

The United Nations commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, recently described the figures as manageable for member states.

"What we need is a more predictable, more efficient, state-led mechanism to rescue people at sea," he said, last month. It is a call likely to be ignored.

Many are also likely to have been returned to Libya. Its coast guard, in part financed by the European Union, intercepted over 10,300 people last year.

Almost 500 were returned in the span of six days in late May, alone.

Meanwhile, the arrivals for the entire Mediterranean is closer to 30,000, according to UN numbers.

Another 800 have died in the attempt so far this year, says the International Organization for Migration.

Now Italy's prime minister, Mario Draghi, is piling extra pressure on the Libyans to prevent departures.

Last week, he met with Libya's national unity government prime minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba in Rome.

"Italy will continue to do its part in terms of resources and training capacities, but determined and rapid EU action is needed," he said, noting Libya also needs to respect the rights of refugees.

Draghi had managed to get the issue of migration back onto the agenda at the next EU summit in June.

The lack of solidarity with Italy also does not bode well for EU-level initiatives.

Among them is a European Commission plan to better coordinate disembarkation and relocation of arriving asylum seekers.

"We need a temporary arrangement to deal with the situation before we have the pact (asylum and migration reforms) adopted," said EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, in May.

Best to keep Frontex in Greece, new rights officer suggests

Greece has drawn criticism and scrutiny for alleged widespread pushbacks of migrants in the Aegean Sea, along with the reported complicity of the EU's border agency Frontex. Critics say the agency should pull out of Greece.

Ireland agrees to relocate 10 migrants from Italy

Last week, over 2,000 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Efforts to relocate some of them to other member states is proving tricky. Meanwhile, another 400 have been stuck on a boat for the past two days.

EU migrant boat plan fails to get extra support

Only seven out of 28 EU states have so far supported a draft plan to disembark and relocate migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean, following a meeting in Luxembourg.

EU sends mixed message on Turkey as 'safe' haven

Greece has declared Turkey a safe country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria and Somalia. But the European Commission appears to have shed doubt on the claim, saying individual cases still need to be assessed.

Frontex 'own worst enemy', says EU auditor

A special audit on how Frontex supports member states in cracking down on "illegal migration and cross-border crimes" has painted a bleak picture of an EU agency, whose annual budget rocketed from €19m in 2006 to €900m in 2021.

News in Brief

  1. Swiss voters reject climate change measures
  2. Spain: Thousands protest against Catalan leaders' pardon
  3. Belarus opposition leader says 'harsh' sanctions needed
  4. Far-right ex-settler becomes Israeli prime minister
  5. EU top court fast-tracks rule-of-law case to October
  6. Hungary's Fidesz wants to ban LGBTIQ content for under-18s
  7. MEPs join EU citizens on farm-animal cage ban
  8. Council of Europe urges Russia to release Navalny 'immediately'

EU rejects UN blame for migrant sea deaths

Last week, the UN high commissioner for human rights said the EU and its member states are partly responsible for making the central Mediterranean more dangerous for asylum-seeker hopefuls. The EU rejects that - despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

EU defends Spain, after thousands enter Ceuta enclave

Spain has warned of a "serious crisis" for Europe after some 6,000 people entered Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. The European Commission has voiced its support for Spain as diplomatic tensions with Rabat heat up.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit
  2. Former French PM to work for Russian oil firm
  3. Lobbyists push to greenwash EU rules for renewable hydrogen
  4. UN report on pushbacks draws cautious EU response
  5. Biden in Brussels, recovery package underway This WEEK
  6. Nato's biggest enemy hides within
  7. The Dutch politician suing the Dutch state for ethnic-profiling
  8. EU urges Poland to step back from 'legal primacy' clash

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us