A European Union plan to resettle 160,000 refugees who have arrived in Greece and Italy has relocated just 86 so far.
The pledge, made last month by EU governments, was meant to share the burden of the influx of migrants from Middle Eastern wars and civil strife between the bloc’s different countries in an effort to decrease the number of people making the journey northward through Europe.
The 86 refugees who have been relocated so far had all been staying in Italy, EU Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. The EU is planning further transfers this week from Italy to Finland and France, and later to Spain, she said.
With more than 700,000 refugees arriving by sea so far this year and tens of thousands more on their way, EU governments are grappling with an influx on a scale not seen since the 1940s. Some have responded by closing borders and building fences, others by shuttling migrants across frontiers for other countries to deal with.
The 160,000 redistribution plan laid bare the disunity within the EU over the crisis with bigger countries forcing the process through over the opposition of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. All of the bloc’s 28 nations are now participating in the program apart from the U.K., which is not bound by EU rules on migration.
The failure to relocate more refugees is largely because countries have not told the EU Commission, which is coordinating the program, how many spaces they have for migrants to take up, Bertaud said.
The EU needs “all member states to tell us how many places they have available right now out of their share of 160,000,” she said. “We have some of this information but we do not have it from all member states.”
Countries also need to install officials in Greece to process the applications, she said.
“We now have 30 people who are ready to be relocated from Greece and expect the flight to go to Luxembourg soon,” she said.