End of relocations : for what balance ?

Two years ago, the European Commission launched a relocation program based on the repartition of 160,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Greece, Italy and Hungary, in the Member States (and in voluntary countries such as Switzerland and Norway). Following the withdrawal of Hungary, the relocation decisions adopted by the Council on 29 September 2016 concerned only 98,255 persons.

The program came to an end this year on 26 September. Time has come an assessment.

Far, far away from the initial objectives

The latest figures show a total of 29,144 people relocated between September 2015 and September 2017. This represents merely 18.2% of the initial project, 29.7% of the final determined quota and, in practice, hardly a bit more than three-quarters of the Commission’s actual target of 37,000 persons, once you ’exclude’ migrants arriving on the Greek territory following the agreement with Turkey and the nationalities failing to cross the recognition threshold of 75% (1).

What happened ? Two Member States, Hungary and Poland, refused to welcome even a single asylum seeker. The Czech Republic has not carried out any further relocation since August 2016. Despite the launch of infringement procedures in July against them for refusing to implement the relocation program, those three Member States did not pressure them into changing their strategy.

As for the other Member States, Spain reached only 13.7% of its quota, Belgium 25.6% and France 21.7%. The Netherlands and Portugal filled 39.6% and 49.1% of their respective targets. And for the Member States that have not welcomed the number of asylum seekers they committed to, no sanction is foreseen...

Malta and Latvia are the only two EU Member States that manage to meet their targets. It is also important to highlight the efforts of some Member States such as Finland, which received 1,951 asylum seekers, representing 94% of the expected target, or Ireland which opened its doors to 459 asylum seekers, representing 76.5% of its quota. Norway and Lichtenstein, which participated voluntarily in the program, both met their respective commitments of 1,500 and 10 persons.

However, despite the goodwill of some Member States or associated States, no one would dare to call this initiative - sensible, let us admit it - a success. This can only raise questions about the spirit that will guide the Member States in their discussions on the reform in progress dealing with the right of asylum.

The Commission’s optimist façade

The European Commission, however, refuses to speak of failure and continues to hope that, after 26 September, some Member States will be keen on continuing to welcome "relocatable" persons, in exchange of a "financial assistance" . Indeed, the Commission reports that, at present, 2 000 persons in Greece are awaiting relocation (while a similar number of persons may still register) while 7,200 persons that have arrived in Italy in 2017 are eligible (of which only 4,000 have been registered) . Although Italy and Greece should be able to submit relocation requests for eligible applicants who arrived prior to the 26 September deadline, to the Member States that have not met their relocation targets yet, the results remain nevertheless quite miserable.

As of Jean-Claude Juncker, EC President, he stated that : “Even if it saddens me to see that solidarity is not yet equally shared across all our Member States, Europe as a whole has continued to show solidarity.[...] Europe, contrary to what some say, is not a fortress and must never become one. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge” . 29,000 people, with this figure in mind, the European "solidarity" seems pretty weak !

The closure of the relocation program marks the end of a temporary exception to the "Dublin system", which generally leads the country of arrival in the EU to assume responsibility for processing an asylum application. In the draft reform of the Dublin Regulation, the Commission proposed retaining the rule on the responsibility of the countries of first entry, but with a corrective mechanism in the event of a mass influx. In this case, inter-State solidarity obligations would be triggered. When looking at the relocation program results, one cannot but wonder to what extent "obligations of solidarity" could be effectively implemented.

 

(1) AEDH, Relocation : from notification to reality , 29 May 2017. 

(2) European Commission : Press release “State of the Union 2017”, 27 September 2017. 

(3European Commission, Relocalisation : Sharing Responsability, September 2017. 

(4) European Commission : State of the Union speech, 3 September 2017, Jean-Claude Juncker.

 

For further information : 

European Commission : State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker, 3 September 2017.

European Commission : Facts and figures on relocation, September 2017. 

European Commission : Fifteenth report on relocation and resettlment, 6 September 2017.

AEDH : Relocalisation : des annonces à la réalité, une comptabilité en trompe-l’œil, 29 May 2017.

 

 

 

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