Statewatch article: RefNo# 37249
Refugee crisis: Council admits the EU has failed to respond on key areas
Statewatch News Online, October 2016
- "Frontex and Europol... report fatigue among Member States in responding to calls for experts"

- Some 'nationalities' are unable to register their asylum applications. Lodging of asylum applications is done according to nationality, giving priority to Syrians, Pakistanis and North Africans, while Iraqi and Afghani requests are not being dealt with."

Over a year ago the Council and the European Commission- belatedly - started to respond to the refugee crisis. Now a year on the Council, in a secret report to COREPER, recognises some of the failures and urges - for the umpteenth time - to "do more"
:

See: Migration - Implementation (LIMITE doc no: 12730-16, pdf)

The Commission used to publish weekly figures on the number relocated, the number of refugees "returned", the funding for plans in Syria and Africa, and on "hotspot" staffing. Then in the summer this collection of factual reports ended - their publication was embarrassing.

The plan to relocate 160,000 refugees to Member States mostly from Greece and Italy has patently failed:

"This note aims to focus on some of the current shortfalls and potential solutions in
managing the migration and refugee flows in the Mediterranean...

On relocation, some progress has been achieved, but as migrants continue to arrive in Italy and in light of the challenging situation in Greece, relocation remains crucial to alleviating the pressure in those countries."


Organisational chaos

Many of the institutions' public statements suggest the that ongoing problems are due to inefficiency in Greece and Italy - this document tells a different story. There are "staffing" problems:

"There are still significant shortfalls in experts provided by Member States replying to calls from agencies. The situation is especially critical for EASO in Greece, since the Agency plays a crucial role in the different steps of the asylum procedures on the islands, as well as the relocation process. Frontex and Europol also report fatigue among Member States in responding to calls for experts. Recent security concerns have further affected Member States' willingness to deploy staff. Additionally, experts do not always have the right profile and are not deployed for a sufficiently long period. Deployment periods that are too short and mismatching of profiles put an unnecessary strain on the host Member State and agencies, which must continuously train new staff, thereby draining resources from essential tasks." [emphasis added]

And there are "information sharing" problems:

"Technical problems, errors and delays in information-sharing between actors hinder the smooth running of relocation in both Italy and Greece as well as the asylum procedure on the Greek islands. Both relocation and the asylum process require a complex chain of actions to be completed. EASO and other agencies only play a supporting role in certain functions and are dependent on efforts by host Member States and Member States of relocation. The fact that coordinators in the hotspots are not being appointed or do not have the necessary authority remains a constraint on the operation of the hotspots in both Greece and Italy." [emphasis added]

And "reception capacity" problems

"Reception capacity remains a serious problem. In Greece, there is an urgent need to establish sufficient permanent facilities, in line with EU standards, while at the same time providing temporary facilities as a contingency measure. Italy should accelerate the opening of already announced additional hotspots and adequate reception structures." [emphasis added]

The obvious connection between the failure of the relocation plan and the EU demands for more "hotspots" and "permanent detention centre" explains the understandable reluctance of these two countries to become permanent detention states. The institutional failure to recognise this fact leads them to conclude:

"Relocation: In Greece, the lack of centralised relocation centres creates logistical problems as relocation applicants have to be transported from various sites to go through the different steps in the procedure. Besides the inevitable delays, this situation also contributes to frustration among applicants and may lead to people absconding." [emphasis added]

"Frustration" has led to riots and the burning of detention centres by so-called potential "absconders" who have been held for months in inhumane and unhealthy holding centres. The situation is described in the document as not a problem of the failure of "relocation" and of the failure to remove/"return" refugees to their home countries - from which they have fled due to war, persecution and poverty:

"The slow return rate and overcrowded facilities on the [Greek] islands are challenging. This contributes to a volatile security situation, which presents a potential problem for the various staff of the national asylum service, EU agencies and NGOs, and also as regards our international legal responsibilities towards the migrants and refugees." [emphasis in original]

EU Member State failure to "relocate" refugees

The latest UNHCR figures show that since the adoption of the relocation scheme, a total of 1,258 persons (3.2% of the 39,600 target) have been relocated from Italy. So far 3,809 pledges were received from adhering states (latest EC data, 27 September).

A total of 4,468 (6.7%) asylum-seekers against the targeted 66,400, have been relocated from Greece to other EU countries since the beginning of the relocation programme in November 2015. A total of 9,596 pledges have been made by EU Member States,"

The Council document states:

"While relocation numbers have gone up significantly in recent months, Member States are not offering sufficient pledges. Additionally, due to the long response time of Member States and the delays in the implementation of transfers, the process takes an average of three months between the date a relocation request is sent and the actual transfer takes place.

While the importance of adequate security screening by Member States of relocation is not in question, Member States still reject relocation candidates without justification or for reasons not based on exclusion grounds provided in Council Decisions."
[emphasis added]

Unaccompanied children

21 months (if not much longer) into the refugee crisis the Council's view on children speaks for itself:

"Relocation of unaccompanied minors remains an issue both in Italy and Greece. Not only in terms of lack of sufficient pledges and organised transfers for unaccompanied minors, but also concerning the conditions in which they reside and the lack of dedicated facilities." [emphasis added]

And on the implications it observed that:

"The slow asylum process also negatively affects unaccompanied minors. Many wait for months in closed facilities for their claims to be processed, some of them in substandard conditions or placed with unrelated adults. There is a lack of specialised shelters for unaccompanied minors to reduce the use of detention."

EU-Turkey deal

Here there is an extraordinary admission:

"The asylum process on the Greek islands is moving slowly and some 'nationalities' are unable to register their asylum applications. Lodging of asylum applications is done according to nationality, giving priority to Syrians, Pakistanis and North Africans, while Iraqi and Afghani requests are not being dealt with. This leads to frustration and unrest in the overcrowded hotspots. It also hinders any possible family reunification." [emphasis added]

The admission that Afghani applications for asylum - who have arrived in Greece from Turkey - are "not being dealt with" comes when the EU has just agreed another "dodgy deal" to return tens of thousands of refugees to Afghanistan.

See: EU-Afghanistan returns plan: Another "dodgy" deal

- Deal last week to start immediate refugee "return" flights
- Is Afghanistan a "safe country"?
- Quick return of 80,000 refugees planned
- "effectively implement readmission commitments" - by-passing parliamentary scrutiny

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