EU member states go slow on relocating refugees

In September the EU agreed to transfer 160,000 refugees over the next two years from the most affected states, such as Italy and Greece, to permanent locations elsewhere in Europe, but EU member states have so far relocated only 116 refugees.

The September decision was aimed to help people in “clear need of international protection” through a scheme set up to relocate Syrian, Eritrean, and Iraqi refugees from crowded tent camps in southern Europe to other EU member states.

According to data released on Tuesday by the European Commission, so far only 116 people have been relocated, and only 1,418 places have been readied by fourteen EU member states.

The EC reports that eighty-six asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy, and thirty asylum applicants will travel from Athens to Luxembourg on Wednesday. The Guardian reports that Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom have an opt-out from the relocation plan, but Britain is the only EU member state to say it will not take part in the relocation.

The EU’s relocation plan is only one aspect of the broader refugee crisis.According to the UNHCR, the overwhelming majority of those crossing the Mediterranean come from Syria. Only 6 percent of those arriving through the Mediterranean are originally from Iraq and 5 percent from Eritrea.

Also, not all those seeking asylum remain in or travel through Italy or Greece.

About 770,000 asylum applications were filed in all EU member states in the first nine months of 2015, compared to 625,920 in 2014 and 431,090 in 2013.

The wave of new asylum application has created a backlog. According to the European Commission data, at the end of 2014 there were just under 490,000 pending applications across EU member states. In July of this year, the number grew to 632,000.

The EC data also show that the backlog is only likely to grow: for every asylum decision made there are 1.8 new applications. Approximately 240,000 applications were processed between January and June this year – but during the same six months, 432,345 new applications were filed.

The European Commission also says that beyond the logistical challenges, a “large number of member states has yet to meet financial commitments” and “too few member states” have responded to calls to help Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia – the countries through which most asylum seekers enter the EU zone — with resources such as beds and blankets.

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