Thursday, September 29, 2016

EU refugee relocation scheme unlikely to complete as planned

The European Union (EU) looks unlikely to be able to complete its plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy by September 2017, as figures released on Wednesday show that only 5,651 refugees have been relocated by far.

According to the Sixth Report on Relocation and Resettlement released by the European Commission, September recorded 1,202 relocations, the highest monthly number since the relocation scheme's entry into force in September 2015.

However, since last reporting date of July 12, 2016, 7,300 people have arrived in Greece, 52,656 people have arrived in Italy.

The comparison indicated that the pressure in these "frontline" countries keeps increasing and the EU measures are lagging far behind.

With the continuous arrival of migrants in Italy and the still challenging humanitarian situation in Greece, relocation remains crucial to alleviate the pressure in these countries, the European Commission said.

The report said a total of 4,455 refugees were relocated from Greece and 1,196 from Italy. France has taken in the lion's share of refugees from Greece, relocating 1,721, and a further 231 from Italy. The Netherlands has taken in a combined total of 726 refugees, and Finland 690.

To meet the refugee commitment made by the EU, its member states will have to take in a further 154,349 people in the next year. Currently, around 60,500 refugees are still in Greece awaiting relocation, around 13,800 on the islands and around 46,700 persons on its mainland.

With regard to the resettlement, not a half of the EU's pledge, which is to offer legal and safe pathways to 22,504 people before September 2017, has been fulfilled, according to the report.

The good news is the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal has continued after the attempted coup in July.

The European Commission said an additional 1,071 Syrian refugees have been resettled from Turkey between June and Sept. 27, tripling the number of people resettled and bringing the total number from Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal to 1,614.

Even so, it is widely believed that the EU will probably break its promise as the dissatisfactions on the schemes are gaining ground in the bloc.

Austria has not submitted any pledge at all and since April Poland has not taken forward the implementation of its pledges and has not pledged nor relocated any applicant, the report said.

Hungary, another example, is planning an October referendum on the EU migration policy, which insists on sharing out the numbers of refugees entering the bloc.

"Quotas today clearly divide the EU, therefore I think they are politically finished," Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said earlier this week, which caused criticisms from EU institutions.

As always, the EU reiterated its call for further action to accelerate the implementation of the relocation and resettlement schemes.

"Those who can do more should do so urgently. We can only effectively manage asylum and migration in Europe, and preserve the Schengen area, if we all work together in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility," said Frans Timmermans, the European Commission's First Vice-President.

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