European countries have fulfilled less than a third of their commitments to relocate asylum-seekers. Among the worst offenders are Poland and Hungary, both of which have refused to accept a single asylum-seeker from Italy or Greece.
Among the worst offenders are Poland and Hungary, both of which have refused to accept a single asylum-seeker from Italy or Greece. Slovakia, which unsuccessfully challenged the relocation scheme in the European Court of Justice, has only accepted 16 of the 902 asylum-seekers it was assigned, and the Czech Republic only 12 of 2691.
Spain has fulfilled just 13.7% of its quota, while Belgium has fulfilled 25.6%. The Netherlands has fulfilled 39.6% of the target it committed to, and Portugal 49.1%. The UK refused to take part in the scheme at all.
Malta is the only EU country that has fulfilled its quota. Norway and Lichtenstein opted in to the scheme voluntarily, and have both fulfilled their commitments to relocate 1500 and 10 respectively. Notably, Finland has welcomed 1,951 asylum-seekers (or 94% of its legal commitment). Ireland has taken in 459 asylum-seekers, or 76.5% of its legal commitment.
Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said: “Two years after this scheme was agreed, most EU member states have fundamentally failed refugees and asylum-seekers, shirking their responsibilities and leaving thousands abandoned in Italy and Greece.”
An she added: “This isn’t about paying lip service to doing right by refugees and asylum-seekers, it is a legal obligation. EU countries must now step up and make good on the promises they made, or risk being taken to the European Court and potentially facing tough penalties.”
Amnesty is calling on European governments to step up their efforts to fulfil their quotas under the relocation scheme, as well as to accept individuals with protection needs in Italy and Greece through other means, including through work visas and swift family reunification procedures.
The UK, for its part, should immediately allow unaccompanied children granted refugee status to bring their parents and siblings over to join them here.
The fact that this is not currently allowed means that vulnerable children are being denied the right to grow up with the love and care of their family, and their families are being forced to remain in dangerous, life-threatening situations.
The European relocation scheme, agreed in September 2015, offered asylum-seekers the chance to rebuild their lives in safety after surviving war and persecution and then perilous journeys to reach Europe.
In Greece, where thousands of asylum-seekers without family reunification claims have been trapped since the closure of the Greek-Macedonian border in March last year, relocation has been one of very few formal options available for most people to safely move elsewhere in Europe.
Asylum-seekers who have arrived on the Greek islands since the EU-Turkey deal came into force, also last March, have unlawfully been excluded from the relocation scheme, and many remain trapped on the islands.
Iverna McGowan added: “Everybody who arrives in Greece and Italy before the impending deadline should be made eligible for relocation.
As well as allowing them to carry on with their lives in safety and dignity, making these people eligible would relieve pressure and improve conditions on the Greek islands, which have deteriorated as arrivals have risen over the summer months.”
After the deadline for asylum-seekers to become eligible for the relocation scheme passes, governments can, and must, continue to relocate those already eligible, in line with their obligations.