Today, the Commission adopted its latest progress report on the EU’s emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, assessing actions taken up to 13 May 2016. Overall, progress remains unsatisfactory since the Commission’s second report, despite signs of increased preparation for future action: few relocations have taken place since mid-April, though the pipeline of future relocations has been strengthened. Progress has been made on resettlement as part of the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, but must be accelerated to avoid migrants returning to irregular routes. Greater efforts on relocation are increasingly urgent in view of the humanitarian situation in Greece and the increase in arrivals to Italy.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “We cannot be satisfied with the results achieved so far. More has to be done, and swiftly. We need to quickly respond to the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and prevent any deterioration of the situation in Italy. The planning we see for upcoming relocations must be delivered. I urge all Member States to get ready to move at last. In parallel, we need to increase resettlements, mostly from Turkey, but also from other countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Our recent progress in breaking the smugglers’ business model is only sustainable if a safe legal channel also opens for asylum seekers. It is important to speed up the pace and deliver fully on the 1:1 mechanism as part of the EU-Turkey Statement.”
In its First Report on Relocation and Resettlement on 16 March, the Commission set a target of relocating at least 20,000 persons by mid-May. This target has not been met. Only 355 additional persons have been relocated during the latest reporting period, bringing the total number of relocated applicants from Greece and Italy to 1500. Relocation efforts were again made by only a few Member States and associated Schengen States.
Based on the latest information available, around 46,000 asylum seekers and migrants are in mainland Greece, awaiting processing. Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis that requires swift action to enable large numbers of relocations. Greece is preparing a major pre-registration exercise that will accelerate the identification and full registration of relocation applicants. After this exercise, a significant number of additional asylum seekers will be ready for relocation within the following months. An expected increase in the number of arrivals in Italy, as weather conditions improve, will also require all Member States to provide support.
In today’s report, the Commission urges Member States to put in place effective planning to increase their pledges and reduce the response time on relocation requests. The Commission calls on Member States with large allocations to engage more actively in relocation and pledge according to the size of their allocation. The Commission also calls for all actors to step up the relocation of unaccompanied minors.
Based on the information received from the participating States, 6,321 people were resettled by 13 May 2016 under the resettlement scheme of 20 July 2015. These people were received by 16 resettling States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom).
The number of resettlements from Turkey continues to increase as Member States finalise their assessments of files referred to them by Turkey, via the UNHCR. Since 4 April 2016, 177 Syrians have been resettled from Turkey. Sweden has received the largest number (55), followed by Germany (54), the Netherlands (52), Finland (11) and Lithuania (5). Another 723 applications have already been accepted and the applicants are waiting to be transferred to 7 different EU Member States.
In total, 19 Member States and 1 Associated State have indicated that they foresee over 12,000 places for resettlements from Turkey. Around 2,000 resettlements are currently planned between May and July 2016, subject to a coreesponding number of Syrians being returned from Greece under the 1:1 scheme.
The temporary emergency relocation scheme was established in two Council Decisions in September 2015 in which Member States committed to relocate 160,000 people from Italy and Greece (and if relevant from other Member States) by September 2017.
On 8 June 2015, the Commission adopted a proposal on a European Resettlement Scheme, which was followed by an agreement among the Member States on 20 July 2015 to resettle 22,504 persons in clear need of international protection, in line with the figures put forward by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Following the EU Leaders’ Summit with Turkey on 29 November 2015, the EU-Turkey Action Plan was adopted. The voluntary admission scheme proposed by the Commission on 15 December 2015 is a key element of the Plan, aimed at supporting Turkey in managing refugees and offering a safe and legal channel for persons in need of protection.
The European Council on 7 March called for an acceleration of the implementation of relocation, in order to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Greece. Today’s report responds to the Council’s Conclusions, to the obligation under Article 12 of the two Council Decisions on Relocation, and to the Commission’s commitment under the “Back to Schengen” Roadmap.
The EU Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 provides that for every Syrian being returned from Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU. This principle applies as of 4 April 2016. Priority is given to migrants who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EU irregularly.
The Commission adopted on 16 March the First Report on Relocation and Resettlement. The Second Report was adopted on 12 May.