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EU interior ministers offer 8 000 fewer places than needed for refugee redistribution

20.7.2015 23:32
Refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, 2015. (PHOTO:  YouTube.com)
Refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, 2015. (PHOTO: YouTube.com)

EU-28 interior ministers did not manage to fully agree today on the redistribution of 40 000 asylum seekers currently located in Greece and Italy. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said the EU-28 states have offered to redistribute only 32 000 people during the next two years.  

Luxembourg's EU Presidency said it will now continue to negotiate with those countries that offered to take fewer refugees than anticipated. "The total number was not achieved. The closing number was off by about 8 000," Chovanec told journalists in Brussels.

The minister reminded the press that when it comes to those deserving of international protection now living in refugee camps outside the EU, the Member States have promised to receive roughly 2 000 more people than the originally anticipated number of 20 000. The Luxembourg EU Presidency will continue to seek 8 000 more places in the redistribution program by the end of the year from countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Spain, which were expected to make more of a contribution in the first place.

Hungary did not offer to take any of the redistributed refugees and is in a very specific situation, having its own big problems with illegal migrants, thousands of whom it is now apprehending. Chovanec said he understands why the Hungarian authorities are now building a fence along their border with Serbia.  

However, the minister said the current "number games" are not solving the basic problem of this migration. He believes there is a need to discuss effective return policies, detention sites where migrants will be carefully registered, etc.

The Czech Republic would like to send its own representatives to such first-contact registration sites in order to monitor them, but Italy does not like the idea. "That debate is still on the agenda," Chovanec said.  

EU Member States rejected a proposal from the European Commission at the end of June to use mandatory quotas to redistribute the 40 000 persons who most probably are entitled to international protection and are now in Greece and Italy. However, the countries did agree to redistribute that number over the next two years on a voluntary basis.

The Czech Republic then offered 1 100 places for the redistribution during an informal ministerial meeting at the start of July, while France offered more than 6 700 places and Germany offered 9 000. Several other countries, however, did not make any such promises and the Luxembourg EU Presidency has been intensively negotiating with them on the matter ever since.  

The result of today's meeting, which did not fulfill the EU summit's task, is not a failure of either the Czech Republic or the European Union, according to Chovanec. "These particular 60 000 migrants might be just a drop in the bucket unless Europe begins more effectively boosting its own measures," the Czech Interior Minister emphasized.

He reminded the press that 60 % of asylum seekers are not entitled to international protection and only 39 % ever manage to return to their home countries. He also said he presumes that if the registration system for the redistribution from Greece and Italy works, Prague would be prepared to receive the first several hundred migrants from facilities in those countries by the end of this year.

Most of the Czech contribution to the redistribution program, apporximately 800 places, would be filled next year. The program would end in the autum of 2017.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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EU, Immigration, refugee, Serbia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Luxembourg



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