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EU Commission Slams States for Slow Response to Migrant Relocations

© REUTERS / Michalis KaragiannisRefugees and migrants walk after disembarking from passenger ferry Blue Star1 at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, February 20, 2016.
Refugees and migrants walk after disembarking from passenger ferry Blue Star1 at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, February 20, 2016. - Sputnik International
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EU member states have a "political, moral and legal duty" to step up efforts to relocate tens of thousands of migrants from Greece and Italy, under a controversial scheme originally intended to relocate 160,000, but which - until now - has only relocated 16,000 - just ten percent of the target.

Migrants make their way after crossing the border at Zakany, Hungary October 16, 2015. - Sputnik International
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There are two relocation plans on the EU agenda: the Greece-Italy relocations — designed to take the weight off those two counties and redistribute refugees across EU member states according to a mandatory quota system — and the EU-Turkey deal to relocate "irregular migrants" (those refused asylum) back to Turkey in return — on a one-for-one basis — for Syrian refugees in Turkey being relocated around EU member states. 

However, according to the Commission, so far only 16,000 have been relocated under the first and just 4,618 Syrian refugees have so far been provided with safe and legal passage to Europe under the second.

Although the original target figure of 160,000 for Greek-Italian relocations was later reduced to 98,255, the fact that only 16,000 have been moved shows a considerable shortfall. Nine member states — Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia — have yet to start resettling within the ongoing EU-level schemes, according to the Commission.

​"Now is the time for our member states to deliver on their commitments and to intensify their efforts. They have a political, moral and legal duty to do so. I call on those countries that have not yet joined this common effort to do so. Relocating all people eligible from Greece and Italy over the coming months is perfectly feasible," said Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos.

'Limited Basis'

The Commission says that, with around 14,000 relocation candidates remaining in Greece and around 3,500 registered for relocation so far in Italy, the total number of people eligible for relocation who are present in the two countries is "well below what was foreseen in the Council Decisions."

Given these figures, the Commission says, if the European Council-endorsed targets of at least 3,000 monthly relocations from Greece and the target set by the Commission of at least 1,500 monthly relocations from Italy are met, relocating all eligible applicants currently present in Greece and Italy by September 2017 is perfectly achievable.

© REUTERS / Laszlo BaloghHungarian and Polish policeman patrol at the Hungary and Serbia border fence near the village of Asotthalom, Hungary, October 2, 2016 as Hungarians vote in a referendum on the European Union's migrant quotas.
Hungarian and Polish policeman patrol at the Hungary and Serbia border fence near the village of Asotthalom, Hungary, October 2, 2016 as Hungarians vote in a referendum on the European Union's migrant quotas.  - Sputnik International
Hungarian and Polish policeman patrol at the Hungary and Serbia border fence near the village of Asotthalom, Hungary, October 2, 2016 as Hungarians vote in a referendum on the European Union's migrant quotas.

However, the Commission says that whereas some member states —Luxembourg and Portugal — are steadily progressing on their obligations for Greece and Italy, others — Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia — are relocating on a very limited basis.

Whilst Austria has announced it will start relocating soon, others — Hungary and Poland — are still refusing to participate in the relocation scheme at all. So far, only two member states —Malta and Finland — are on track to meet their obligations for both Italy and Greece in time.

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