As a result of the increased efforts of Member States, the number of persons relocated so far in 2017 is almost as many as in the whole of 2016. The total number of relocations now stands at 18,418, proving that relocation works if there is the will to abide by what was agreed together in a spirit of sincere cooperation. However, whilst most Member States are active and relocate regularly, some have still not relocated at all, disregarding their legal obligation. On resettlement, Members States have continued to make significant progress, with safe and legal pathways being provided to 16,163 persons so far, beyond two thirds of the agreed resettlements under the EU scheme. Building on the recommendations from the previous month, today's report is in particular focusing on those Member States that are not delivering on their commitments.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "The results so far prove that if there is will and determination of Member States, relocation can work. The success of the relocation scheme cannot depend only on just a few. Solidarity in legal, political and moral terms is not susceptible to different interpretations. I call on those Member States who have systematically failed to deliver on their obligations to start doing so at once. The overall figures on resettlement show what strengthened EU-level cooperation and coordination can do in practice, and it is high time we achieved the same for relocation."
The positive trend on relocation has continued with an additional 2,078 persons relocated since the last report (1,368 from Greece and 710 from Italy). As of 12 May, 18,418 relocations have been carried out in total; 5,711 from Italy and 12,707 from Greece. However, despite the continuing positive progress, the current pace of relocation is still below what is needed to meet the targets set to ensure that all those eligible are relocated over the coming months.
Whereas in Greece the current number of 12,400 relocation applicants registered is expected to remain stable, Italy still needs to ensure that all persons eligible for relocation are registered. In addition to the 2,500 relocation candidates currently registered in Italy, 700 persons are expected to be registered soon as well as the more than 1,100 Eritreans who have arrived in Italy in 2017. However, with the total number of people eligible for relocation present in the two countries being well below what was foreseen in the Council Decisions and taking into account the progress registered so far, it is perfectly achievable to relocate all those eligible by September 2017 if Member States demonstrate the political will and determined action to deliver on what they have jointly agreed. In any case, the legal obligation to relocate those eligible in Greece and Italy will not cease after September.
Although most Member States are now active and pledging and relocating regularly, Hungary, Poland and Austria remain the only Member States that have not relocated a single person. This is in breach of their legal obligations, the commitments taken towards Greece and Italy and the fair sharing of responsibility. Austria has however formally pledged to relocate 50 persons from Italy, a decision which the Commission welcomes. Moreover, the Czech Republic has not been active in the scheme for almost a year.
In this respect, the recommendations in today's report focus mainly on those Member States that have not yet implemented the Council Decisions, notably calling on Hungary and Poland to start pledging and relocating immediately, the Czech Republic to restart relocation without delay and Austria, which has now started pledging from Italy, to start pledging from Greece.
Recommendations are also addressed to encourage a more effective implementation of the Council decisions in other Member States:
- Bulgaria and Slovakia should show more flexibility as regards their preferences and should start relocating from Italy as soon as possible;
- Ireland and Estonia, in cooperation with Italy, should find mutually acceptable solutions on additional security interviews in order for relocations to start as soon as possible;
- A number of Member States should increase their monthly pledges (Spain, Belgium and Croatia for both Italy and Greece; Germany, Romania and Slovakia for Greece and France for Italy) while Cyprus should start pledging again for Italy and relocating as soon as possible;
- Relocating Member States as a whole should increase their capacity to process application requests, avoid overly restrictive preferences and delays and limit requirements causing delays in the transfer procedure and give priority to applications concerning vulnerable applicants, in particular unaccompanied minors;
- In addition, Italy should urgently speed up the procedures to identify and register all eligible applicants as soon as possible and ensure that those eligible for relocation arriving in Italy are channelled in an orderly manner to specifically designated relocation hubs. For this purpose, the Commission recently provided €15.33 million in emergency assistance to improve the functioning of the relocation scheme in Italy.
The Commission calls on Member States to follow up its recommendations and significantly accelerate their relocation efforts in a spirit of mutual cooperation and trust before the next report in June 2017. Moreover, the Commission urges those Member States that have not relocated anyone, or that have not pledged for Italy and Greece for almost a year, to start doing so immediately and within the next month. If no action is taken, the Commission will then specify in its next report in June its position on making use of its powers under the Treaties and in particular on the opening of infringement procedures. The Commission stands ready to assist Member States in making progress towards meeting their obligations.
The resettlement scheme as a whole remains on track. With 16,163 persons resettled to 21 countries as of 12 May, more than two thirds of the agreed 22,504 resettlements under the EU resettlement scheme have already been carried out. Since 10 April 2017, 671 people have been resettled; mainly from Turkey, but also from Jordan and Lebanon. This represents important progress when compared to the limited numbers Member States resettled in 2014 and 2015 via national or multilateral schemes and clearly demonstrates the added value and potential of strengthened EU-level cooperation and coordination on resettlement.
However, while some Member States and Associated Countries have already fulfilled their targets (namely Estonia, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), resettlement efforts remain uneven. Nine Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) have yet to start resettling within the ongoing EU-level schemes.
The pace of resettlements from Turkey, included in the overall figure of resettlement, continues to advance well with 1,077 Syrians having been resettled since the last report. A total of 5,695 Syrian refugees have now been provided with safe and legal passage to Europe under the EU-Turkey Statement. The overall number of remaining pledges for resettlement from Turkey now stands at 25,040 while Romania is preparing to resettle shortly via this mechanism for the first time.
Whilst significant progress has been achieved, Member States who are still far from reaching their targets and those Member States who have not yet resettled under the EU schemes should step up their efforts to resettle as soon as possible to contribute to the joint efforts to provide safe and legal pathways to the EU for persons in need of international protection and to implement the EU-Turkey Statement.
The temporary emergency relocation scheme was established in two Council Decisions in September 2015, in which Member States committed to relocate persons in need of international protection from Italy and Greece. The relocation decisions concern the commitment to relocate 98,255 people, after the Council adopted an amendment to the 2nd Council Decision on relocation on 29 September 2016 to make 54,000 places not yet allocated available for the purpose of legally admitting Syrians from Turkey to the EU.
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.
The European Council on 7 March 2016 called for an acceleration of the implementation of relocation in order to alleviate the humanitarian situation in Greece. In its conclusions of 20 and 21 October, the European Council reiterated its call for further action to accelerate the implementation of the relocation and resettlement schemes in light of the urgent need to provide support to Greece and Italy. The European Council on 15 December endorsed the Joint Action Plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, which included the relocation target for Greece of 3,000 monthly transfers and reiterated its call to further intensify efforts to accelerate relocation, in particular for unaccompanied minors, and existing resettlement schemes.
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 on 13 July 2016 proposed a permanent EU Resettlement Framework to establish a common set of standard procedures for the selection of resettlement candidates and a common protection status for persons resettled to the EU to streamline and better focus European resettlement efforts in the future.
The Commission adopted on 16 March 2016 the First Report on Relocation and Resettlement. The Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Reports were adopted respectively on 12 April, 18 May, 15 June,13 July, 28 September, 9 November, 8 December 2016, 28 February, 2 March and 12 April 2017.
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