21 January 2018
On the morning of Tuesday 23 January European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, responsible for home affairs and migration, is to appear before the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control to answer: Written Questions on the 2016 Discharge to the Commission (pdf). They pose a number of awkward questions.
EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
"1. 73% of the EUTF finances come from the European Development Fund (EDF). Those funds are supposed to be used to combat poverty. However, not a single EUTF-project can directly be linked to a source in terms of finance. How can the Commission guarantee that the EDF-funds are being spent correctly? (...)
4. Why has so little been spent on creating legal migration routes, which is one of the goals of the EUTF and the second pillar of the Valetta Action Plan on Legal Migration and Mobility?"
DG Home annual activity report
"10. The EU-Turkey Statement was concluded on 18 March 2016. It had a profound impact on the number of arrivals in Greece. In the ten months before the Statement came into effect 960,681 migrants arrived to the Greek islands. In the ten months after, only 25 720. However arrivals in the EU kept exceeding returns to Turkey. DG HOME therefore contributed, with Greece, to a Joint Action Plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, which was endorsed by the European Council on 15 December 2016. How much money had been invest in this plan? What has been the result?" [emphasis added throughout]
21. In his annual activity report for 2016 the Director General of DG HOME adopted a very optimistic approach as to the performance audit published by the Court of Auditors on "EU response to the refugee crisis: the Hotspot approach"(ECA SPECIAL REPORT6:2017) .However, the Court concludes that despite considerable support from the EU, at the end of 2016 the reception facilities in Greece and Italy were still not adequate. There was also a shortage of adequate facilities to accommodate and process unaccompanied minors in line with international standards. The hotspot approach further requires that migrants be channelled into appropriate follow-up procedures, i.e. national asylum application, relocation to another Member State or return to the country of origin. Implementation of these follow-up procedures is often slow and subject to various bottlenecks, which can have repercussions on the functioning of the hotspots. How did the Commission respond to this findings and what are the measures taken so far and what measures still need to be taken?"
"The EU’s so-called “hotspot” approach for irregular migrants arriving in Italy and Greece has helped to significantly improve the registration, identification and security checking of migrants. But more needs to be done as thousands of migrants are still stranded on the Greek islands after their arrival, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. Many of those affected are unaccompanied minors, say the auditors, and more should be done to help them.....
relocation is no longer an option, and returns are slow. As a result, there are still more migrants arriving at the hotspots than leaving, and they are seriously overcrowded." [emphasis added]
See: Full report (pdf)
"23. According to Human Rights Watch, women have reported frequent sexual harassment in hotspots in Greece. What kind of strategy and procedures the Commission has in place to ensure the safety of women and accompanied minors held at hotspots? What is the impact of the EU’s support teams (consisting of input from the Commission and the EU Agencies) when it comes to ensuring the safety of women and minors at hotspots?
24. Originally, hotspots were meant for a few days’ transits yet it seems that people are held in hotspots relatively long periods. What is the average time a person seeking asylum or access to the Schengen area is held at hotspots in Greece and in Italy? Please provide a breakdown by each hotspot."
Budget Control Committee to visit Lesbos
"37. The Budgetary Control Committee is planning a fact-finding delegation to Greece in February. Members of the mission will visit the island of Lesbos to gain on-site experience of the functioning of the hotspot set up on the island. Could you please provide us with a short update on the situation there."
An extraordinary issue is highlighted concerning emergency financial assistance provided by the Commission to the Greek authorities to transport migrants from the Greek islands to the mainland between August and November 2015.
The cost of providing transport by charter vessels and the provision of accommendation and "snacks to migrants" apparently cost €8 million, of which the Commission paid €6 million through a grant to the Greek authorities.
On the other hand 150,000 refugees and migrants each paid €60 per ticket. On the highest estimation this involved an income of up to €9 million, however the tickets for children (the number of which took the journey is unspecified) cost €30.
As highlighted in the Court of Auditors annual report, the Commission does "not share the Court's assessment regarding a lack of transparency of the split of funding between public sources and the revenue from migrants."
Nevertheless, the Budgetary Control Committee will ask:
"From an ethical point of view one can question the handling of the matters. Does the Commissioner share the view of those who think this practice should not be repeated again?"
See: Annual report of the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2016 (see pages 251-252, link)
And see: Next meetings of the Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) (link) for documents and webstreaming. The Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) is organising on 23 January between 9:00 and 10:30 in meeting room PHS 5B001
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