The European Union’s top migration official on Monday urged member-states to meet their refugee relocation pledges by September and help alleviate the pressure on countries such as Greece and Italy which have borne the brunt of arrivals across the Mediterranean.
Fewer than 14,500 asylum seekers have been relocated under the two-year plan that was supposed to cover 160,000 people and expires in September.
Speaking ahead of an EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels yesterday, Avramopoulos, the EU’s commissioner for migration and home affairs, said that Europe must offer protection to those who need it, adding however that undocumented migrants must return to their home countries.
“We must build a Europe that is safe for all its citizens,” the Greek official said, adding that strengthening security on the bloc’s external border and cooperation with third countries are fundamental pillars of EU policy.
His comments came as representatives of a Chios citizens’ group objecting to the presence of migrants on the eastern Aegean island addressed the issue in the European Parliament.
The group is reportedly considering challenging the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal aimed at curbing refugee flows in the Aegean at the European Court of Justice.
A total 3,580 migrants and refugees are currently stranded on Chios, according to official figures. Authorities yesterday said 74 individuals had arrived on Greece’s islands over the previous 24 hours.
Meanwhile, police in Athens on Monday announced the dismantling of a large racket supplying refugees and undocumented migrants with forged or falsified travel documents.
Raids on several properties around the city center revealed some 1,000 such documents, half of which have been reported as stolen by authorities in other countries, including the United States.
The gang, which is thought to have been headed by a 30-year-old Iraqi suspect, allegedly charged between 600 and 1,500 euros for fake papers and from 3,500 to 6,000 euros to arrange travel from Athens International Airport.