The Commission has also today, for the first time, published a point by point progress report on each of the measures under the Joint Action Plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement presented on 8 December.
1) Tenth Report on Relocation and Resettlement
The temporary emergency relocation scheme was established in two Council Decisions in September 2015, in which Member States committed to relocate persons in clear need of international protection from Italy and Greece by September 2017. Since the presentation of its first report in March 2016, the Commission has been reporting on the implementation of the relocation and resettlement schemes on a monthly basis. While progress has been promising on resettlement, Member States need to renew their efforts to deliver on their relocation commitments.
How many persons in need of international protection have Member States committed to relocate under the Council Decisions?
Member States have committed to relocating 98,255 by September 2017, not 160,000. This is because 7,745 from the first Council Decision on relocation have yet to be allocated and because 54,000 from the second Council Decision will be used for resettlement from outside the EU rather than relocation within the EU. As a follow-up to the EU-Turkey Statement, a decision was adopted in September 2016 to make the 54,000 places that had not yet been allocated to Member States under the relocation decisions available for the purpose of legal admission of Syrians from Turkey to the EU. Out of the 98,255, 34,953 persons are to be relocated from Italy and 63,302 from Greece.
What progress have Member States made so far in meeting their relocation commitment of 98,255 persons from Greece and Italy?
Although there has been a progressive increase in the pace of relocations with 13,546 persons relocated as of 28 February (9,610 from Greece and 3,936 from Italy), at the current pace, the total number of persons relocated will fall some way short of meeting the obligations set for September 2017.
Whereas France has relocated the largest number of applicants (2,758), followed by Germany (2,626) and the Netherlands (1,486), so far, only two Member States (Malta and Finland) are on track to meet their obligations for both Italy and Greece. Some Member States (Hungary, Austria and Poland) are still refusing to participate in the scheme at all and others are doing so on a very limited basis (Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia).
Despite their recent efforts to accelerate relocation, Belgium, Germany and Spain have relocated around 10% of their allocation so far, and Spain is not pledging on a monthly basis. Luxembourg and Portugal are steadily progressing on their obligations for Greece and Italy and Sweden is preparing to meet its relocation obligations for Greece and Italy between June and September 2017. Associated Countries are generally well on track to relocate their commitments in time, despite their voluntary participation in the scheme.
How many eligible relocation candidates are currently present in Greece and Italy?
The success of the relocation scheme will be measured against whether all persons eligible for relocation have been effectively transferred to another Member State as foreseen in the Council Decisions and whether all Member States have been actively participating in the scheme and showing solidarity with Greece and Italy.
With 9,000 persons having already been relocated from Greece, according to estimations, there are currently around 20,000 persons eligible for relocation still present in Greece. At the current pace of relocation of about 1,000 people per month, the total number relocated from Greece by September 2017 would be around 16,400 people, which represents only 57% of the total number of persons eligible for relocation.
In Italy, around 20,700 Eritreans arrived in 2016 but only between 5,300 and 5,800 have so far been registered for relocation by the Italian authorities. At the current pace of about 750 people per month, the total number relocated from Italy by September 2017 would be around 9,200, which represents just 44% of those who could today be eligible for relocation.
If the target for Greece of 3,000 per month, set by the Commission in its Report from December and included in the Joint Action Plan endorsed by the European Council in December, and the target for Italy of 1,500 per month are met, relocating all those eligible in Greece and Italy would be possible by September 2017 if all Member States deliver on their obligations.
The preconditions and operational infrastructure to make relocations happen are now fully in place. Hotspots have been set up, procedures to facilitate relocation are in place and EU agencies and international organisations are working hand in hand with Italy and Greece.
Therefore, meeting these targets lies largely in the hands of the Member States, since Greece and the EU Agencies and international organisations involved in the implementation of the scheme have done what is required to make relocation work and are ready to carry out the monthly targets. It is now for the Member States to deliver on their obligations as well.
What action will the Commission take to ensure that all Member States relocate in accordance with their commitments?
An insufficient implementation of the relocation scheme will not only fail to alleviate the pressure on Greece and Italy but it will also negatively affect the progress on other aspects of the comprehensive EU response to the migration and refugee crisis. As reported by the Commission today, given the current numbers in Greece and Italy, relocation of all those eligible is both possible and feasible, if Member States increase the number relocated and deliver on their commitments.
However, if Member States do not increase their relocations soon, and if the pressure on Greece and Italy is not sufficiently alleviated, the Commission will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the Treaties and open infringement procedures for those Member States who have not complied with the obligations stemming from the Council Decisions.
The Commission urges the Maltese Presidency and Member States to follow up on the Commission's recommendation at the March Justice and Home Affairs Council.
If Member States have not fulfilled their obligations by September 2017, will eligible applicants remain in Greece and Italy?
The main aim of the relocation scheme is to effectively alleviate the migratory pressure on Greece and Italy within the timeframe of 2 years set by the Council Decisions. However, Member States' legal obligations to relocate eligible candidates present in Greece and Italy do not stop after September 2017. Therefore, the relocation procedure set out in those decisions must still be carried out by the Member States for eligible applicants within a reasonable timeframe thereafter.
Are the Council Relocation Decisions linked to the revision of the Dublin Regulation?
No. The implementation of the Relocation Decisions and the Dublin reform, currently under negotiation, are not linked.
However, while it is essential that the relocation schemes are fully implemented in the short term to relieve the pressure on Italy and Greece, it is equally important, in parallel, to accelerate the work on the reform of the Common European Asylum System, particularly on the Dublin Regulation. The reform of the Dublin system will ensure that the EU has a fair but effective asylum policy based on a clear and fair sharing of responsibility among all Member States, including structural tools to deal with situations of disproportionate pressure on Member States' asylum systems
Is the implementation of the Relocation Decisions linked to the resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece?
The Commission Recommendation for a gradual resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece, applicable to persons who entered irregularly into Greece from 15 March 2017 onwards (or for other persons for which Greece is otherwise responsible from that date onwards under the Dublin rules), needs to go hand in hand with the progress made by the Member States in the implementation of their obligations under the relocation scheme. The swift relocation of all eligible candidates from Greece would facilitate the decongestion of the overstretched reception capacities in Greece and contribute to facilitating the resumption of Greece's responsibilities under the existing Dublin Regulation.
What progress have Member States made so far in meeting their resettlement commitments?
Progress on resettlement continues to be promising. As of 27 February, 21 resettling States have provided safe and legal pathway to 14,422 persons in need of international protection, over half of the agreed 22,504 under the EU resettlement scheme. This figure includes the resettlement of 3,565 Syrians under the EU-Turkey Statement, including 467 since the previous report. Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom as well as Associated Countries Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland have already fulfilled their pledges.
Despite good progress overall, the Member States who have not yet resettled under the Conclusions of 20 July (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) and those who are still far away from reaching their target such as the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Portugal, who have not reported any progress in several months, should step up their efforts.
As an immediate follow-up to the adoption of the Commission proposal in 2016 to make 54,000 places that had not yet been allocated to Member States for relocation available for the purpose of legal admission of Syrians from Turkey to the EU, the Commission has received indications from Member States that they plan to admit from Turkey over 34,000 Syrians out of the 54,000. Following this pledging exercise, the Commission has revised the funding programmes for the relevant Member States under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to include an overall amount of €213 million for resettlement of Syrians from Turkey, half of which has been already paid out as pre-financing.
In this context, it should be noted that recent decisions by the United States, potentially reducing the legal options for almost 300,000 non-Syrians registered in Turkey with the UNHCR, may have consequences for the resettlement efforts of the EU.
2) Fifth Progress Report on the EU-Turkey Statement
On 18 March 2016, EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey agreed to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and replace it instead with legal channels of resettlement of refugees to the European Union.
The aim of the EU-Turkey Statement is to replace disorganised, chaotic, irregular and dangerous migratory flows with organised, safe and legal pathways to Europe for those entitled to international protection in line with EU and international law.
Following almost a year of implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, the Fifth Progress Report confirms a trend of steady delivery of tangible results since the Statement took effect on 20 March, albeit in the face of many challenges. Continued efforts are needed from Greece, Turkey and all EU Member States to accelerate the implementation of the Statement and to ensure results.
What is the state of play of the Joint Action Plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement?
To ensure full implementation of EU actions under the EU-Turkey Statement and to alleviate the pressure on the Greek islands, on 8 December the EU Coordinator Maarten Verwey published a Joint Action Plan elaborated with the Greek authorities, endorsed by the European Council on 15 December.
Since then, the EU Coordinator has been working closely with the Greek authorities, EU Agencies, international organisations and Member States to implement the Joint Action Plan and has continued to ensure the day-to-day follow-up to the EU-Turkey Statement with the aim of accelerating the asylum processes, increasing the number of migrants returning from the Greek islands to Turkey and establishing appropriate security measures in the hotspots.
Particular attention has been paid to improving the living conditions and creating appropriate shelters including closed pre-removal facilities on the islands, as well as improving the productivity of the Appeal Committees.
Progress has notably been made on the following priority actions of the Joint Action Plan:
- 59 experts have been deployed on the islands by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and 100 case workers by the Greek asylum service. 35 additional experts have been recruited by EASO as interim staff and will be deployed on the islands from 6 March. 87 EASO interpreters have also been deployed on the islands;
- The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is financing the deployment of 280 Hellenic Police officers to perform security-related tasks at the hotspots in Lesvos (65), Chios (65), Samos (65), Kos (45) and Leros (40);
- Permanent coordinators were officially appointed on 18 February and started their work on 20 February 2017;
- The Greek Appeal Authority has established 13 Appeal Committees, of which 12 are operational – an increase of seven since the Fourth Report;
- The Greek authorities are applying geographical restrictions of movements to newly-arrived migrants and are putting in place an efficient case tracking system;
- Efforts to increase voluntary returns from the Greek islands continue with 186 migrants having departed voluntarily from the islands in the course of 2017. Reintegration packages for all participants have been included in the programme;
- Work is ongoing to upgrade the accommodation and sanitary infrastructure in Lesvos and Chios. A site review to increase the accommodation capacity of the hotspot in Chios has been conducted;
- Member States and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency are responding appropriately to requests for deployments and transportation means for ongoing return operations;
- The location of a detention pre-removal centre with a capacity of 500 has been designated by the Hellenic Police in Kos - the first 100 to 150 places are expected to be ready by mid-March.
Continued efforts from the EU and Member States to support the migration management and asylum processing capacity of the Greek administration is required, in particular to ensure that the pace of returns, in full compliance with EU and international rules, is stepped up and that the situation on the Greek islands improves urgently.
How many migrants have arrived in Greece since 20 March?
The reduction in attempts to cross the Aegean and in deaths at sea since the operationalisation of the Statement has confirmed the core reason behind the decision of the EU and Turkey to sign the Statement.
Crossings from Turkey to Greece have gone down from 10,000 in a single day in October to around 43 a day. In the weeks before the implementation of the Statement, around 1,740 migrants were crossing the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands every day. During the eleven months following the EU-Turkey Statement, a total of 26,940 migrants arrived from Turkey. Overall, arrivals to the Greek islands from Turkey have dropped by 98%.
One year after the operationalisation of the Statement, that equates to one million people who have not arrived irregularly by taking dangerous routes to the European Union, and nearly 1,000 who have not lost their lives trying. The number of lives lost in the Aegean Sea since the Statement took effect has fallen from around 1,100 (during the same period in 2015-2016) to 70.
The total numbers of irregular arrivals from Turkey to Greece in September, October, November and December 2015, and January and February 2016 were, respectively, 147,639, 214,792, 154,381, 104,399, 61,602 and 56,335 persons. For the same months the corresponding daily averages were 4,921, 6,929, 5,146, 3,368, 1,987 and 1,943 persons.
How many returns and resettlements have taken place so far?
Since the Statement entered into force, there have been 849 returns from the Greek islands to Turkey, including 159 Syrians. Other nationalities returned have included Pakistanis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Iranians as well as people from Iraq, India, Congo, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Nepal, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Overall, 1,487 people have been returned to Turkey under the EU-Turkey Statement and the Greece-Turkey bilateral protocol since 4 April 2016, in full respect of EU and international law. The persons returned so far have either received negative asylum decisions (including negative decisions at second instance), withdrawn their application for asylum or international protection or had not applied for asylum in the first place, despite having been informed of their rights to do so.
In total, 3,565 Syrian refugees have been resettled from Turkey to the EU to underline that Europe will live up to its responsibilities as a continent committed to the Geneva Convention and to the fundamental right to asylum.
According to the EU-Turkey Statement, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU end, or at least have been substantially and sustainably reduced, in order to create a system of solidarity and responsibility sharing with Turkey for the protection of persons displaced by the conflict in Syria to Turkey. Following a recent expert mission to Turkey, the Commission looks forward to swiftly finalising the Standard Operating Procedures for the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme within the Council and with Turkey. Once the Standard Operating Procedures are agreed, an assessment should be made whether the conditions for triggering the implementation of the Scheme have been fulfilled.
What safeguards exist for asylum seekers and on what legal basis are asylum seekers being returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?
People who apply for asylum in Greece have their applications treated on a case-by-case basis, in line with EU and international law requirements and the principle of non-refoulement – the EU-Turkey Statement has made this very clear. Due account must be given to the situation of vulnerable groups, in particular unaccompanied minors for whom all decisions must be made in their best interests. There are individual interviews, individual assessments and rights of appeal. There are no blanket or automatic returns of asylum seekers.
The EU asylum rules allow Member States in certain clearly defined circumstances to declare an application “inadmissible”; that is to say, to reject the application without examining the substance after a fast-track procedure and thereby to accelerate the process of handling applications.
There are two legal possibilities that can be used for declaring asylum applications inadmissible, in relation to Turkey:
- 1) first country of asylum (Article 35 of the Asylum Procedures Directive): where the person has already been recognised as a refugee in that country or otherwise enjoys sufficient protection there;
- 2) safe third country (Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive): where the person has not already received protection in the third country but the third country can guarantee effective access to protection to the readmitted person.
To ensure full respect of EU and international law, Greece and Turkey have both taken a number of legislative and administrative steps.
As well as providing assurances that all returned Syrians will be granted temporary protection upon return, the Turkish authorities have provided further written assurances to the Commission that each non-Syrian who seeks international protection in Turkey will enjoy protection from refoulement, in line with international standards and in accordance with the applicable Law on Foreigners and International Protection.
The Commission has continued to support Greece by providing it with all the elements to conclude that Turkey is a safe third country and/or a country of first asylum within the meaning of the Asylum Procedures Directive, for the purpose of returning irregular migrants from the Greek islands to Turkey under the terms of the EU-Turkey Statement.
The Commission, as communicated to the Greek authorities on 5 May 2016, and again on 29 July 2016, finds that the legal framework in Turkey which establishes the protection status granted to Syrians (Temporary Protection Regulation) appears as sufficient protection or protection equivalent to that foreseen by the Geneva Convention. The Commission assesses that Turkey has taken all the necessary measures in order to allow Greece to declare, on the basis of individual assessments, an application for asylum inadmissible in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive for both Syrian and non-Syrian applicants for asylum who had irregularly crossed into the Aegean Islands via Turkey as of 20 March 2016. Moreover, at the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 May 2016, Member States indicated that they share this assessment.
What happens to those returned to Turkey? How can you be sure that asylum seekers will be given protection in Turkey?
Both the EU and Turkey agreed in their Statement of 18 March to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
Non-Syrian migrants are being returned to Turkey by boat and transferred to a removal centre in Kirklareli where they are informed about their rights, including the possibility to apply for protection status in Turkey. So far 55 persons submitted their applications to the Turkish authorities: one person has been granted a refugee status while 47 have left the removal centre pending decisions on their applications, four have received negative decisions. A recent visit by EU authorities was able to verify that the situation in the centre complies with the required standards. So far, 529 persons, who did not apply for refugee status in Turkey, have been returned to their countries of origin.
As regards Syrians, they are being returned from the Greek islands by plane and placed in a refugee camp in Duzici. They are entitled to apply for temporary protection and, after a swift preregistration for temporary protection, they are free to settle in the province of their choice, or stay in the camp if they prefer. Up till now, all returned Syrians were preregistered with the exception of 10 who decided to return voluntarily to Syria, with 133 of them choosing to live outside the camp and 16 deciding to stay in the camp. In Turkey, 11,102 Syrian nationals (as of 15 November) have so far received work permits in 2016.
What is the state of play as regards visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens?
As regards the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, there are still seven benchmarks that remain to be met as highlighted in the previous report:
- issuing biometric travel documents fully compatible with EU standards;
- adopting the measure to prevent corruption foreseen by the Roadmap;
- concluding an operational cooperation agreement with Europol;
- revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards;
- aligning legislation on personal data protection with EU standards;
- offering effective judicial cooperation in criminal matters to all EU Member States;
- implementing the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement in all its provisions.
The Commission has encouraged Turkey's efforts to complete the delivery of all the outstanding benchmarks on the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap as soon as possible. The Commission and Turkey have continued an engaged dialogue to find solutions, including the legislative and procedural changes needed on all the outstanding benchmarks.
What is the state of play as regards the implementation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey?
The Facility for Refugees in Turkey provides for a joint coordination mechanism for actions financed by the EU budget and national contributions made by the Member States, designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. The resources of the Facility come from the EU budget and from EU Member States over 2016 and 2017, making a total so far of €3 billion over two years.
As showed in the first Annual Report on the Facility published by the Commission today, of the €3 billion, €2.2 billion has so far been allocated, for both humanitarian and non-humanitarian assistance. Of the €2.2 billion allocated, contracts have been signed for 39 projects worth €1.5 billion. Of this €1.5 billion, €750 million has been disbursed to date. The contracts signed represent half of the €3 billion total for 2016-2017 and are testimony to the swift and efficient implementation of the Facility. The humanitarian actions planned for agreement at the next Steering Committee in March will bring total allocation close to the €3 billion.
Funding under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey supports refugees in the country - it is funding for refugees and not funding for Turkey. The support seeks to improve conditions for refugees in Turkey as part of the EU's comprehensive approach to addressing the refugee crisis inside and outside the EU. The first annual report on the Facility for Refugees in Turkey includes numerous examples of Facility funding having a direct impact on the ground, supporting the refugees and their overstretched host communities.
For More Information
Press release: Commission calls for renewed efforts in implementing solidarity measures under the European Agenda on Migration
FACTSHEET: Europe's Migration and Asylum Policy: Small steps to make a big difference
FACTSHEET: A European Agenda on Migration – State of Play
Tenth Report on Relocation and Resettlement
Communication: Tenth Report on Relocation and Resettlement
Annex 1: Relocations from Greece
Annex 2: Relocations from Italy
Annex 3: Relocations from Italy and Greece
Annex 4: Resettlement State of Play
FACTSHEET: Relocation and Resettlement
FACTSHEET: Managing the refugee crisis: EU financial support to Greece
Fifth Progress Report on the EU-Turkey Statement
Communication: Fifth Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement
FACTSHEET: The Facility for Refugees in Turkey
Operational implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement: Member States pledges and deployments for Frontex and EASO operations - returns and resettlements
EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March
EU-Turkey Action Plan of 15 October, activated on 29 November
Second Progress Report on the operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard
Communication: Second Report on the operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard
FACTSHEET: Securing Europe's External Borders: The European Border and Coast Guard
 Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.