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31st Jan 2023

EU migrant relocation: around 7,000 pledges made so far

  • Women and children are among those that take the precarious Mediterranean boat trip to reach Europe (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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A handful of EU states have so far pledged to relocate around 7,000 people seeking protection and arriving on European Mediterranean shores.

"It is somewhere within the realm of 7,000 to 8,000," an EU diplomat with knowledge of the issue, told EUobserver on Monday (13 June).

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The figure is part of a French EU presidency push to get member states to host asylum seekers that primarily arrive at Cypriot, Greek and Italian coastlines and ports. The pledges do not amount to a commitment.

Most EU interior ministers last week in Luxembourg supported the French plan, presented as a political declaration.

The declaration is a temporary solidarity measure to help southern member states with migrant arrivals.

It requires them to either relocate asylum seekers or offer some other form of aid, including financial compensation to southern EU states most impacted by migrant arrivals.

Billed as a form of mandatory solidarity, it will still be up to national governments to decide how and in what shape or form.

"They have deliberately broadened the way of doing solidarity in order to get member states on board," noted the EU diplomat.

Details are still being thrashed out but the diplomat said relocation pledges have so far been made by Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, and Portugal.

A second EU diplomat said Germany had pledged 3,500, France 3,000 and Portugal and Ireland each 350.

The French EU presidency is seeking to get at least 10,000 relocated per year, until a more permanent system devised by the European Commission is installed at a later date.

A spokesperson from the Luxembourg government said they too will relocate people but have yet to announce any figures.

"A figure will be announced most likely during the course of the month," said the spokesperson, in an email.

The deal was hammered through an EU interior meeting in Luxembourg last Friday and is part of a wider overhaul of the EU's migration and asylum reforms.

Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain had made relocation contingent on their agreement on other aspects of the EU asylum reforms.

Those aspects largely shore up security and external borders, in an appeal to more hawkish EU member states.

This includes Eurodac, a fingerprint database, and a regulation on screening that could lead to detention centres at the EU's external border areas.

"For the first time, Europe is officially putting the issue of solidarity on the table," said Greek migration minister, Notis Mitaraki.

But his comment also comes amid a recent report by Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur Human Rights of Migrants.

In it, Morales says illegal pushbacks of migrants in Greece have become the "de facto general policy."

A handful of other EU states oppose the French presidency proposal.

Austria's interior minister Gerhard Karner said it sends the "wrong signal" to people smugglers. Hungary and Poland are also against it.

But their dissent does not appear to concern the European Commission.

EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, told reporters last week there was no need to reach unanimous decisions on migration reforms and laws.

"It's clear in the Treaty that we take decisions with a qualified majority here. And this is of course also the case for this and nobody asked for something else," she said.

This article was updated on 14 June, 2022 with a breakdown of relocation figures per EU state

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