Lawmakers slam EU member states on stalled refugee relocation

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/5/17 7:29:03

In anticipation of a September deadline for the relocation of 160,000 asylum seekers, Members of European Parliament accused national governments on Tuesday of being slow to act on the refugee transfers over the last year and half.

In the context of an unexpected spike in refugee arrivals by sea in the summer of 2015, the European Union (EU) adopted emergency measures to relocate 160,000 migrants from front-line nations Greece and Italy.

With only 18,418 refugees relocated as of May 11, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) criticized EU member states for not following through on their commitments, while still noting that relocation alone would not solve the crisis.

Jeroen Lenaers (European People's Party, the Netherlands) declared that he had "never been in favor of compulsory quotas, but over the past one and a half years we have seen that the voluntary system is not working."

Angelika Mlinar (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Austria) said: "It is not a question of ability, but of willpower. It's high time for member states to follow through on the commitments they entered into."

She compared the efforts made by the EU with those of countries such Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey where millions of refugees have been accommodated.

Only two EU countries, Finland and Malta, appear to be on track to meet their obligations, noted Cecile Kyenge (Socialists and Democrats, Italy).

She asked European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avrampopoulos, present for the debate, what would happen following the September deadline for member states who had not met their commitments.

The commissioner responded that if member states did not increase their relocations soon, the European Commission would not hesitate to launch infringement procedures.

"It is not an issue of capacity, it is purely down to a scandalous lack of political will," said Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, Germany), while welcoming the European Commission's plan to take measures against non-compliant member states.

"We're talking about people who are fleeing from war and persecution, and unaccompanied children who are being left alone in overcrowded camps."

Last year, 63,300 unaccompanied minors applied for international protection in the EU, with 57 percent of all applications registered in Germany alone.

Helga Stevens (European Conservatives and Reformers, Belgium) said it was unfair to criticize northern European countries alone: "Greece and Italy are not managing to organize the inflow of refugees."

She also noted that the Dublin rules, which determine which EU country is responsible for processing asylum applications, were not being respected.

Barbara Spinelli (European United Left / Nordic Green Left, Italy) also criticized the Dublin rules, saying: "As far as Italy is concerned, in 2015 and 2016, there were 5,049 Dublin transfers and 3,936 relocations. In other words, more people were actually sent back to Italy than were transferred elsewhere."

Many MEPs argued that relocation on its own would not solve the migration crisis. Keller declared that "a good Dublin system, common rules and legal pathways are also needed", while Kyenge said: "We need a policy to allow safe and legal migration channels, as well as integration policies in the host countries." Mlinar also lamented the lack of "a proper EU asylum system".

Commissioner Avramopolous closed the debate with a call for solidarity and human consideration in the crisis.

"Relocation is often reduced to numbers, but we shouldn't forget we are talking about people in need of protection. It is our shared moral and political duty to ensure that they get this protection as soon as possible and in a manageable way for the EU."

MEPs will vote Thursday on a resolution on relocation. The European refugee crisis is entering its third summer, and has seen over a million refugees arrive on the continent, fleeing upheaval and conflict in their home regions.

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