15th Aug 2022

EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges

  • The 'Med 5' countries (Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Spain) expect 150,000 migrant arrivals this year (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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The French EU presidency expects to announce next week figures on how many asylum seekers will be relocated under a so-called solidarity plan, while it continues to seek commitments from other member states.

"Hopefully we may be able to give a clear announcement by next week," Guylène Sandjo, an official working for the presidency, said on Tuesday (28 June).

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Billed as a major breakthrough, the solidarity plan is a political declaration that seeks to get other EU states to take migrants and asylum seekers from places of first-arrival, like Greece, Italy and Cyprus.

Known as relocation, the issue on how to share out arriving asylum seekers among non-frontline EU states has confounded European lawmakers for years.

Sandjo would not delve into details when pressed, noting only that they are getting close to the 10,000 target informally set by the presidency.

"We are still discussing with most of the member states to get some commitments," she said. The French presidency is drawing to an end and will replaced by the Czech EU presidency in July.

Earlier this month, EUobserver reported that a handful of member states had pledged around 7,000 relocation places.

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

It is not immediately clear if others have since stepped forward.

Notis Mitarachi, Greece's migration minister, on Monday suggested the figure hasn't shifted.

"The total solidarity offer on the table after the council meeting is around 7,000 relocations. The aspiration is to bring the number to 10,000," he told European lawmakers in the civil liberties committee.

But Mitarachi said Greece, along with Cyprus, Italy, Malta and Spain, collectively expect 150,000 arrivals for this year.

"So we are asking the European Union for these five countries to hold 140,000 out of 150,000 people this year alone," he said.

Mitarachi said the French solidarity target on relocations should be 120,000 and not 10,000.

The trend towards more arrivals and asylum seekers is also expected to increase.

Last year alone saw some 650,000 asylum applications filed in the EU , around a one-third increase when compared to 2020.

"Earlier this year, we have seen the highest number of monthly applications since the so-called refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016," said Nina Gregori, who leads the Malta-based European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA).

Gregori said the spike has been primarily led by the Belarus-regime, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and the war in Ukraine.

Syrians and Afghans were the two largest groups with 117,000 and 102,000 applications respectively, followed by 30,000 Iraqis, and 25,000 each from Pakistani and Turkish nationals.

Similar statements were made earlier this month by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

It noted that more 100 million people are currently displaced worldwide, the highest in a decade.

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