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EU refugee relocation scheme is inadequate and will continue to fail

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Just 660 of 160,000 Europe agreed to share have been relocated as continent buckles under logistical and political weight of the crisis

In the slew of shocking numbers from the EUs refugee crisis this week 30 periods as many people entering Europe in the first two months of this year as last; 70,000 likely to need urgent accommodation in Greece; between 2,000 and 3,000 new arrivals every day one stands out.

Last September, after months of fraught discussions, the European committee unveiled a decisive EU scheme to redistribute around the bloc 160,000 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean asylum seekers from the frontline countries of Italy and Greece over the next two years.

As of Friday, the EUs only concrete, collective effort to find new homes for a small fraction of the 1.2 million refugees and migrants who, since January last year, have landed on its southern coasts, has watched precisely 660 relocated.

According to the commissions figures, just 17 member states have so far made 6,642 places available, about 4% of the promised total. The numbers they have actually taken in, which range from two in Bulgaria to 140 in Finland, add up to merely 0.4% of the target( and to less than 0.05% of those who have arrived ).

Politicians, officials and aid workers say the scheme, which Britain decided not to join, faces significant logistical, bureaucratic and above all political obstacles and caution that as the migration crisis continues to grow, it risks in any event being inundated by events.

Even if the plan was fully signed up to and operational, it is plainly too small given the scale of what Europe is now experiencing, said Steve Symonds, Amnesty Internationals refugee and migrant rights programme director.

They also stress that if this temporary scheme is not properly implemented, it will avoid the permanent one the European commission has acknowledged will ultimately be needed from ever assuring the light of day.

Some people, a Brussels official told Agence France-Presse, are afraid this is going to fail. Some are losing hope. But some are also exploiting this loss of hope.

A number of the problems are strictly practical. Nations have quoted a lack of adequate housing and educational facilities, as well as short-term difficulties organising charter flights.

Many of the French townships, for example, asked to host some of the 24,000 asylum seekers France has pledged to accommodate it has so far greeted 130 did not has every right to kind of housing, Klber Arhoul, the national refugee coordinator, told a parliamentary hearing in Paris.

Localities principally had stimulated four or five-bedroom houses available, believing the demand would largely be from households, he said. Applications have come almost exclusively from single men. What we need is studios.

Other countries have said postpones and fails at the seven so-called refugee hotspots set up under the strategy in Greece and Italy to identify, register and fingerprint new arrivals pose administrative problems.

Several nations, including France, Belgium and Sweden, have also stepped up security checks on asylum seekers since it emerged that some of the attackers who carried out the suicide bombings and shootings in Paris last November may have entered Europe as part of last summertimes refugee influx through Greece.

Others are reportedly selecting on religious or racial grounds: Hungarys prime minister, Viktor Orbn, who has vowed not to accept any refugees under the strategy, protested last year that Hungarians do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.

EU refugee emergency relocation strategy

Greeces minister for migration, Yiannis Mouzalas, said last month that some reception countries were asking us[ for refugees] not to be black , not to be big households, they ask us for more security.

One western envoy, who asked not to be named, said some countries were also looking at questions like whether or not asylum nominees had relatives already in the country, or qualifications, a profession that might be more useful.

But the relocation scheme is also fail because refugees themselves do not understand how it is supposed to work but watch all too clearly that it is ineffective. Many also fear being sent to a country they do not particularly want to live in and not being able to move on.

Theres no way youre going to hang around, knowing if you put your shoes on and set off you stand a better chance of getting where you really want to be, Symonds said. The longer this goes on, the less opportunity there is that individuals who could benefit will stay put and apply in Greece.

Arhoul says the competition between the official relocation system, which is slow, demanding and restrictive and the option to try to move freely to Germany, Austria, Sweden or France has ended up entirely undermining the effectiveness of the EU scheme.

It is possible, as Demetrios Papademetriou, head of the Brussels-based Migration Policy Institute, has said, that some European countries are resisting the relocation quotas because they see no end in sight to the migrant crisis, and so to the demands they will face.

The biggest obstacles, however, are political. Last November, the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and several high-ranking EU officials gathered at Athens airport to find off the first refugees to be relocated under the scheme, a group of 30 Syrians and Iraqis headed to Luxembourg.

EU refugee relocation scheme: how countries responded

Tsipras conceded the 30 were a drop in the ocean, but said he hoped they would become a stream, then a river of … shared responsibility. Italys interior minister induced similar noises in January when 19 Eritreans boarded a plane for Lule in Sweden, calling the flight a symbol of hope.

But anti-refugee sentiment and a mounting populist backlash spearheaded by the Visegrad group of countries, has assured a total of eight countries partly close their borders, especially along the west Balkan refugee route to the migrants preferred destinations of Germany and Sweden.

Last month, along with Slovenia, Croatia and non-EU members Serbia and Macedonia, Austria which has rejected Brussels criticism of its policy as absurd imposed strict new regulations, including a daily cap on the number of asylum seekers and migrants they would allow to enter their territory.

It was those restrictions that led to up to 10,000 refugees and migrants being stranded the coming week, in squalid conditions, at Greeces northern perimeter with Macedonia, near the small town of Idomeni, with hundreds more arriving daily.

As the EU announced a 700 m( 540 m) assistance package for Greece to help it deal with the crisis, officials in Athens acknowledged it now seemed likely that the country would become a reception rather than a transit country for refugees and migrants.

For NGOs and aid agencies, the bloc is fast failing the test. Too many nations are opting for a chaotic, individual approach rather than the coordinated, ordered one the EU is pressing on them, said Symonds.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, condemned governments that were not working together, despite agreements, while Human Rights Watch was scathing of the EUs utter failure to respond collectively and compassionately.

Aid agencies are increasingly alarmed about the humanitarian consequences. The EU needs to start putting the needs of the people seeking its protection first if it wants to manage this crisis, said Aurlie Ponthieu, Mdcins sans Frontiress migration expert.

In Brussels, the EU diplomat was equally harsh. Unless countries can escape their domestic political agendas, he said, this scheme, which is already wholly inadequate, will continue to fail.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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