European Union governments acknowledged that policies to channel migration aren’t working, announcing new processing centers to deal with refugees who slip through Greece without being registered.
With little more than 100 of a planned 160,000 asylum-seekers sent from Greece and Italy to future homes in other European countries and winter setting in, EU interior ministers said the record-setting influx threatens to overwhelm some governments.
“It is time to shift gears and start delivering on all fronts,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters Monday after the ministers met in Brussels. “We have talked a lot, it is the moment to deliver.”
European clashes over sheltering the mostly Muslim, mostly poor newcomers were accompanied by warnings of the risk to the system of passport-free travel between most EU countries, which is regularly hailed as one of the bloc’s greatest achievements.
“There can be a Europe without internal borders only if Europe’s external borders are secured,” Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said.
EU leaders will grapple with refugee policy Wednesday and Thursday in Malta, at a summit with African officials that was called in April when the biggest numbers were coming across the central Mediterranean Sea. Now most are fleeing Syria’s civil war, traveling through Turkey, entering the EU in Greece and moving further northwest.
Some 200,000 came ashore on the Greek island of Lesvos in October alone, making it impossible for economically strapped Greece to cope, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.
“It’s an illusion, it’s impossible to ask a country, especially Greece, to welcome 10,000 people a day and to manage the screening,” said Asselborn, who chaired the meeting.
New processing centers will be set up further north, to screen and register asylum-seekers who make it through Greece without stopping at reception centers dubbed “hotspots” in EU jargon.