European Union lawmakers are demanding that the bloc’s nations respect pledges to share tens of thousands of refugees in overwhelmed Greece and Italy.
In a resolution backed by 398 votes to 134 with 41 abstentions, the lawmakers lamented that just a little over 10 % of the 160,000 refugees meant to be moved by September have actually left the two countries.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Greece and Italy are under “enormous pressure” and that “only a handful of member states have taken their share. This is profoundly unfair.”
Almost 19,000 refugees have been relocated under the legally binding two-year scheme, considered a key plank of the EU’s migration policy. Only Finland and Malta are on track to reach their targets.
Parliament urged member states to honour their commitments and prioritise the relocation of children without family and of other vulnerable applicants. MEPs point out that “only one single unaccompanied minor was relocated so far”.
• Finland and Malta the only member states on track to reach their targets• Commission must consider infringement procedures• relocation measures must be extended until the reform of the “Dublin” asylum system
MEPs condemn that, despite having agreed to move 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy by September 2017, EU member states have relocated just 11% of their total obligations (18,770 persons as of 16 May). They find the lack of solidarity and responsibility-sharing disappointing.
MEPs criticise a number of member states for “very restrictive and discriminatory preferences, such as granting relocation only to single mothers or excluding applicants from specific nationalities, such as Eritreans, and applying very extensive security checks”.
Most countries still lag far behind their targets. Four have only been relocating on an extremely limited basis and two member states are still not participating at all, they add.
Parliament makes clear that, even if they have not reached their relocation targets by September, EU countries will have to continue transferring eligible applicants. They also propose extending the relocation scheme until the new Dublin Regulation on asylum is adopted.
In a decision approved by the Council in September 2016 – which was opposed by Parliament – member states agreed that 54,000 out of the 160,000 places could be used for the admission of Syrian refugees from Turkey, as part of the EU-Turkey migration deal, rather than from Italy or Greece.
According to UNHCR data, around 50,000 asylum-seekers are still stuck in Greece, while Italy faced a new record in 2016 with 181.436 new arrivals.