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Refugee relocation scheme in EU has failed says Catalan organization

Only 30% of 120,000 asylum seekers have been relocated since 2015, in what Catalan Refugee Aid Commission is calling a "resounding fraud"

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26 September 2017 06:29 PM

by

ACN | Brussels

Two years on from the European Union's pledge to relocate 120,000 refugees either trapped in Greece or Italy, or coming directly from Lebanon and Jordan, only 30% have been given asylum as the intitiative comes to an end today.

The majority of refugees remain unprotected in limbo, a fact that highlights the “resounding fraud” of the program, according to the Catalan Refugee Aid Commission (CRAC), criticizing how the EU has only managed to house “one out of every four people.”

Amnesty International has also called on European governments to “intensify their efforts” in order to meet their quotas, asking them to “accept people in need of protection using other means” such as work visas or family reunification.

According to the human rights organization, the Spanish government has only met 13.7% of its quota, taking in just 1,279 out of a total 9,923 refugees.

On September 6 the European Commission revealed that the amount of people relocated since September 2015 would be in the region of 28,000, a far cry from the initial agreement to host 98,255 refugees stuck in Greece and Italy. The minimum objective of taking in 22,504 refugees from outside the EU has not been completed either.

The Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (SCRA) and CRAC have published a report detailing the main reasons why the initiative is failing.

The first is known as “national criteria” which limits the relocation of refugees who exceed an average international recognition rate of 75%. The aim is to “leave out of the process thousands of people arriving from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, or Nigeria,” SCRA pointed out.

Another reason for the EU's failure, according to SCRA and CRAC, is an agreement with Turkey stating that unsolicited arrivals to Greek islands via Turkey would be limited. The Turkish government promised to readmit anybody who illegally came to Greece asking for asylum, effectively shutting off a major sea route used by refugees.

“Critics argue that the outsourcing of international protection to a country like Turkey is illegal,” Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas and Elena Sánchez-Montijano, two researchers from the Center for International Information and Documentation in Barcelona, pointed out in an article. “Some Greek courts have stopped expulsion orders with this same argument,” they also said.

There is also “a lack of political will,” SCRA and CRAC said. Before the pact between the EU and Turkey, internal borders between Balkan countries were already being closed to prevent refugees passing. During 2015, Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia restricted entry to Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan citizens, Garcés-Mascareñas and Elena Sánchez-Montijano highlighted.

By 2016, Macedonia's border was completely closed and the so-called "corridor" to the center and north of Europe became another "insurmountable wall."

  • "The European Commission cannot allow member states to circumvent their shared responsibility"

    Ska Keller· MEP/President of European Greens

According to SCRA and CRAC, the EU countries “seem to have given up the right of asylum and responsibility towards people fleeing war and persecution.”

The two organizations added that this “lack of political will” is related to other reasons that have influenced EU countries' non-compliance with the fulfilling of their quotas: “restrictive conditions” and “inflexible requirements” that many countries have established during the years since the agreement was made.

An analysis by Eurostat, the EU statistics office, also says that the number of asylum seekers has dropped by 54% in the second quarter of 2017 compared to last year.

In response to the end of the relocation program, Ska Keller, MEP and president of the European Greens, called for the hosting of asylum seekers to continue.

"The European Commission cannot allow member states to circumvent their shared responsibility,” she said, asking for the Commission to file “infingement procedures” against Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic for “boycotting” relocation plans.

The EU Court of Justice already stated on September 6 that Hungary and Slovakia cannot refuse to relocate refugees, citing the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This allows institutions to take all the necessary provisional measures "to deal effectively and rapidly with an emergency situation characterized by the sudden influx of displaced persons."

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  • A refugee camp near the city of Idomeni in northern Greece in March 2016 (by Nazaret Romero)

  • A refugee camp near the city of Idomeni in northern Greece in March 2016 (by Nazaret Romero)