16:08 GMT01 December 2020
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    After the massive influx of migrants that destabilized Europe in 2015, it had been hoped that 2016 would be the year the EU got its act together and took control of its borders, found refuge for those fleeing warzones and finally got agreement over its response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

    No such chance. In May and September of 2015, the European Commission published its roadmap for migrants: a plan that would allow for those seeking asylum to be verified, given basic needs and — finally — a place they could call home.

    The grand plan was for the relocation of 160,000 migrants who had turned up in various countries — notably Greece and Italy — amid the chaos of mass movement and inadequate border controls. These migrants would be 'processed' and then redistributed around EU member states according to an "emergency" plan.

    A migrant opens his arms as he waits to disembark from the German Navy ship Hessen at the Palermo harbor, Italy.
    © AP Photo
    A migrant opens his arms as he waits to disembark from the German Navy ship Hessen at the Palermo harbor, Italy.

    The idea envisaged: "a mandatory distribution key using objective and quantifiable criteria (40% of the size of the population, 40% of the GDP, 10% of the average number of past asylum applications, 10% of the unemployment rate)," the Commission stated.

    In the event of a country being unable to take on the burden, the Commission said:

    "If — for justified and objective reasons such as a natural disaster — a Member State cannot temporarily participate totally or in part in a relocation decision, it will have to make a financial contribution to the EU budget of an amount of 0.002% of its GDP.

    A woman sits with her child after migrants and refugees tried to open the border fence at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 7, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Marko Djurica
    A woman sits with her child after migrants and refugees tried to open the border fence at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 7, 2016.

    "The European Commission will analyze the reasons notified by the country and take a decision on whether or not they justify the non-participation of a country in the scheme for a maximum of up to 12 months," the Commission stated. That 12-month period expired September 6, 2016.

    Many EU member states refused to take part in the deal, with Hungary challenging the Commission at the European Court of Justice, Poland backing Hungary and Austria threatening court action against Hungary for letting migrants flood into Austria and refusing to take them back, under EU rules.

    So far — as at December 6, 2016, according to European Commission figures — a total of 8,162 have been relocated under the plan. Austria, Denmark, Hungary and Poland have taken no migrants from either Italy or Greece, under the scheme. The UK — not being a member of the Schengen Agreement —is not part of the scheme, although Ireland (which is also non-Schengen) has taken 109 from Greece.

    EU-Turkey Resettlement

    Meanwhile, on March 2016 the Commission announced another resettlement program — this time with Turkey.

    Under the EU-Turkey deal, "irregular migrants" —those refused or not applying for asylum in Greece — would be relocated back to Turkey and exchanged — on a one-for-one basis with Syrian refugees in Turkey who would be resettled in EU member states.

    ​The deal faltered initially because the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and many NGOs objected to the scheme as they believed Turkey was not a "safe third country" under the Geneva Convention because of its record on human rights and alleged failure to meet international standards on refugee camp conditions.

    The deal came to a grinding halt following the attempted coup, July 2016, after which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a clampdown on opposition, the media and various members of the civil services, including teachers and the judiciary.

    According to the Commission, as at December 8, 2016, "the total number of migrants returned to Turkey following the EU-Turkey Statement stands at 748."

    As tens of thousands of migrants face New Year in temporary accommodations — or, often, slum conditions — across Europe, the two great plans for immigration proposed by the EU have — so afar — actually 'moved' fewer than 9,000 migrants.

    Refugees stand near a bus as they wait to be transferred to a hospitality centre during a police operation at a refugee camp at the border between Greece and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece,on May 25, 2016
    © AFP 2020 / Yannis KOLESIDIS / POOL
    Refugees stand near a bus as they wait to be transferred to a hospitality centre during a police operation at a refugee camp at the border between Greece and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece,on May 25, 2016

    The EU member states are still bickering over the relocation and resettlement plans, the EU-Turkey deal looks dead in the water and Europe is facing a rise in right-wing, anti-migrant sentiment which is dominating the domestic political agenda of EU leaders, making it highly unlikely the bloc will reach any consensus anytime in 2017.

    Related:

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    Migrant Crisis in Turkey: 'Many European Countries Do Not Keep Their Promises'
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    Tags:
    EU-Turkey migrant deal, migrant camp, refugee crisis, migrant crisis, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), European Commission, European Union, Italy, Europe, Turkey, Greece
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