Following last week’s EU-Turkey agreement, the European Commission is proposing to amend a Council Decision to make more places available for resettlement of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey. With this amendment, places which were foreseen for relocation of asylum seekers in Italy and Greece to other EU member states, will now be available for the purpose of resettling directly Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU.
The Commission explains that the proposal responds to the need to commit further places for resettlement from Turkey, following the agreement to resettle one Syrian from Turkey for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey after arriving irregularly in the Greek islands.
This 1:1 scheme aims to quickly replace irregular flows of migrants travelling in dangerous conditions across the Aegean by an orderly and legal resettlement process.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “With the agreement reached with Turkey on Friday, we are offering asylum seekers a credible alternative to putting their lives at risk on dangerous sea routes. Member States now need to honour their commitments and ensure an orderly, well managed and safe arrival and admission to Europe for persons in need of international protection in Turkey.”
In order for the scheme to function, member states must make a sufficient number of resettlement places available, within the framework of their existing commitments. The number of resettled Syrians would be deducted from Member States’ relocation quotas.
According to Yves Pascouau, director of Migration and Mobility Policies at the European Policy Centre (EPC), the EU-Turkey agreement raises both legal and practical uncertainties. “In practice, it is likely that few states will accept to resettle Syrian refugees,” he writes in a commentary (21 March).
|Relocation and resettlement – two different measures|
To relieve the pressure on front-line member states, EU decided in September 2015 to relocate 160 000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other member states. 54 000 of the places have not yet been allocated under this scheme.
According to statistics published by the Commission, only 937 persons had been relocated by 15 March. The following member states had not received any relocated asylum seekers: Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
To avoid displaced persons from having to resort to smuggling networks, EU member states agreed in July 2015 to resettle about 22 000 persons in need of international protection from outside of the EU directly to member states. As of 15 March, altogether 4116 people had been resettled to eight EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and United Kingdom.
The Brussels Times