The European Commission is piling the pressure on European Union member-states that are refusing to take in asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, as they had promised in September 2015, threatening, for the first time, to take legal action if they continue to do so.
Although relocations increased in February, they are a far cry from the original targets set by the Commission in 2015 when EU countries had agreed to share some 160,000 migrants and refugees who had reached Greek and Italian shores in the previous two years. Of this number, only 13,546 have since been relocated – 9,610 from Greece and 3,936 from Italy.
The 2015 agreement between EU countries stipulated that there would be 3,000 relocations from Greece and 1,500 from Italy each month.
In total, the agreement provided for the relocation of 63,000 from Greece by September this year.
But at the current rate achieving this target appears highly unlikely, even though Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Thursday that the September target is still within reach.
“There are no more excuses for the member-states not to deliver,” he said, insisting that “it is possible and feasible to relocate all those who are eligible from Italy and Greece by September.”
Avramopoulos warned that if there are no tangible results by September, then the noncompliant countries will face legal action as the Commission “will not hesitate to make use of its power.”
Only three EU states (Luxembourg, Malta and Finland) are close to fully meeting their obligations under the 2015 agreement. However, Hungary, Austria and Poland remain opposed to the agreement, while other countries, including the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia, say they are on board but will only take a limited number of asylum seekers.
With regard to the relocation of migrants and refugees from Turkey, EU countries have so far taken in 14,442 people, of whom 3,565 were Syrians.
Meanwhile, the deal signed in March 2016 between Turkey and the EU to stem the flow of migrants into Europe is, so far, bearing results as the rate of daily arrivals on Greek islands has dropped significantly to about 43 per day, compared to as many as 10,000 on one day at the height of the influx in October 2015.