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27th Jun 2022

EU to pay member states to take asylum seekers

  • EU wants to member states to relocate Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers (Photo: iom.int)

The European commission wants to pay member states €6,000 for every asylum seeker they take under a new relocation scheme meant to help Italy and Greece cope with migration demands.

The plan will only apply to people fleeing war or persecution in Eritrea and Syria. Both nationalities obtain around 75 percent positive recognition rate on asylum demands.

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The proposal, which stills needs to be approved by national governments, is capped at 40,000 asylum seekers over a two-year period.

“Less would not help Italy and Greece, more would not be acceptable to others,” European commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (27 May).

The €240 million scheme is not going via the normal legislative route. The commission is triggering a never-before-used emergency mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty on the “sudden inflow of nationals of third countries” to help Italy and Greece.

Both countries qualify because of the large increase of boat migrants attempting to reach their shores.

Last year, Italy saw a 277 percent increase compared to 2013 or some 170,000 people. In the first four months of this year, it registered 26,000 people.

Greece, for its part, registered a 153 percent jump or 54,000 people last year but saw 28,000 in the first four months this year.

Both are expected to see many more people over the coming summer months as the EU plans to launch, in parallel, a naval assault against migrant traffickers off the Libyan coast.

The new plan still needs to go to a vote in the Council, representing member states, but could be blocked as resistance mounts from big countries like France and Spain.

If approved, Greece would dispatch up to 16,000 newly arrived asylum seekers to other member states while Italy would send 24,000.

The numbers are divided according to criteria like national GDP and employment.

Germany would take the most with 8,763, representing some 22 percent from both Greece and Italy. France would come next with 6,752 followed by Spain with 4,288.

At the lowest end is Cyprus (173), followed by Malta (292) and Luxembourg (368).

The UK, Ireland, and Denmark have special provisions that don’t require them to participate. Associated countries like Switzerland and Norway are being asked to volunteer.

In practical terms, it means Italy and Greece will only need to identify and fingerprint the asylum seeker upon arrival.

If the claim is deemed legitimate, then the asylum seeker is sent to a member state where the application is completed. If rejected, then the asylum seeker will be sent back to their home country.

“Those who have no justified claim should be quickly identified and returned to their home country. This is essential for migration policies to be well accepted in society,” said European commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

20,000 refugees

Meanwhile, the commission is also proposing a separate plan for member states to bring in some 20,000 UN-recognised refugees over a two-year period.

Unlike the asylum seeker plan, the refugee proposal has no legal basis and is only a recommendation. It would cost €50 million.

Currently, only 15 of the 28 member states resettle any refugees.

“Up until now we only have national pledges from member states, this scheme would lead for the first time to a situation where the EU would pledge,” said a European commission official.

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