01 July 2016
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The European Union's relocation scheme for refugees in Greece and Italy "has clearly failed", the Italian interior ministry's head of immigration, Mario Morcone, told a recent press conference hosted by the Italian Council of Refugees. The most recent European Commission report on the relocation scheme, published on 13 July, records a total of 843 people being relocated from Italy to other Member States since the scheme was put in place in September 2015. The Commission's aim is to relocate 6,000 people from Greece and Italy per month.
Morcone's comments were reported in an article in The Local (link), which highlighted the growing number of informal camps developing at Itay's internal European borders:
"Some 135,000 people who have requested asylum are still waiting in Italian reception facilities to learn whether they will be allowed to stay and given the papers to travel, or will be earmarked for expulsion.
Frustrated by months of delays, some make their way to border crossings. Tighter security controls have made it harder to cross illegally into France, Switzerland and Austria, so many migrants set up camp while they wait for the opportunity."
These include settlements at Ventimiglia on the Italian-French border and Lake Como, near Italy's border with Switzerland.
The European Commission's most recent report on the relocation and resettlement schemes (pdf) appeared to blame the low number of relocations from Italy on the country's bureaucratic and infrastructural failings:
"As for Italy, the very low rate of relocations can be attributed to a number of factors. These include a less settled relocation procedure in Italy, with a relocation workflow still in the process of being developed and insufficiently close cooperation between the Italian authorities and Member States of relocation (particularly regarding security issues). Italy should also accelerate the opening of the additional hotspots already announced, as well as the setting up of mobile hotspots. Moreover, there is a need for clear information on the number of arrivals, persons registered, and potential candidates eligible for relocation present in Italy. In addition, the applicants eligible for relocation from Italy have generally more complex profiles, requiring extra administrative efforts from both the Member States of relocation and the Italian authorities, e.g. in terms of providing sufficient interpretation. Stepping up relocations from Italy requires more trust between the authorities, rapidly finalising and swiftly implementing the relocation workflow, further developing the administrative capacity of the Italian authorities, and ensuring sufficient pledges and flexible implementation of the existing arrangements. Member States also need to respond to calls for experts to be deployed in Italy."
However, from the figures provided by the Commission it seems that the majority of the blame should lie with the Member States, who have utterly failed to provide anywhere near the number of places that they formally agreed to in the Council Decisions establishing the relocation scheme.
For example: Belgium is allocated 1397 places in the Council Decisions, has formally pledged 30 places, and has relocated 29 people. The Czech Republic was allocated 1036 places, has formally pledged 20, and relocated nobody. For France the numbers are 7115, 300 and 181 respectively; for Lithuania 251, 40 and zero; for Spain 2676, 50 and 40. The list (pdf) goes on.
The Commission noted in its 13 July report: "The overall progress on relocation represents a positive trend that has to be continued, but more efforts are needed." For some Member States, any effort at all would no doubt be welcomed.
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