EU efforts in vane as migrant arrivals in Italy, Greece hit record

DAILY SABAH WITH WIRES
ISTANBUL
Published 30.06.2015 19:22
Updated 30.06.2015 19:28
While the EU barely relocates the present migrants, people continue to come to the continent with hundreds waiting in Italy.
While the EU barely relocates the present migrants, people continue to come to the continent with hundreds waiting in Italy.

The number of refugees arriving in Greece and Italy hit more than 120,000, while the EU has negotiated a contested proposal to spread 40,000 refugees being housed in Italy and Greece across the bloc

A sharp increase in refugees arriving in Greece and Italy shows the failure by European leaders to adequately address the migrant crisis, as only 40,000 people waiting in the two countries will be relocated to other EU countries. The actual number of refugees is three times higher than the contested EU proposal suggests. In Italy, nearly 68,000 migrants have landed this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and in Greece, at least 61,474 refugees arrived on the Greek islands between Jan. 1 and June 22, 2015, Amnesty International reported. The number is far greater than the amount that arrived in the whole of 2014 when 43,500 refugees arrived in Greece.

About 2,900 immigrants were rescued in one day from the central Mediterranean in one of the biggest single-day tallies since Italy began experiencing a record influx of refugees and asylum seekers from North Africa. The Italian Coast Guard said it coordinated 21 rescue operations on Sunday that also involved the Italian Navy and tax police as well as Spanish, British and Irish navy vessels and the private Malta-based rescue mission Migrant Offshore Aid Station. For 2015, Italian authorities foresee at least 200,000 arrivals. The surge in numbers since the start of 2014 has put Italy's reception facilities under severe strain. Italy currently provides housing for around 80,000 asylum-seekers and others seeking leaves to remain in the country. The situation is likely to get worse over the summer, when the numbers of boats dispatched by people smugglers usually peaks. Of last year's arrivals, some 100,000 arrived between June and September. This year has also seen a sharp increase in the numbers of migrants dying during the crossings with over 1,800 fatalities reported en route to Italy and at least 27 off Greece, according to the OIM.

In a bid to issue a solid response to a global refugee crisis, European leaders agreed to a voluntary scheme aimed at relocating 40,000 migrants arriving in Italy and Greece among the 28-nation EU bloc to ease the load on the two southern European nations, and resettling an additional 20,000 refugees mainly coming from Syria and Iraq. The EU quota plan addresses the distribution of refugees rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean. The plan is bound by complex rules: National economic output, population, unemployment rates and the number of refugees already admitted to an individual country. The quotas by percentage of the total number of people rescued, have been opposed by many European countries, saying that they have already been contending with thousands of refugees.

As EU leaders refuse to have migrant numbers dictated to them from Brussels, the compulsory quota system imposed by the EU was agreed to only on the condition of a voluntary scheme. The EU leaders also agreed to grant exclusion for Hungary, which had earlier described the migrant quota plan as absurd, and Bulgaria, one of the EU's poorest countries. The proposal exposed sharp differences between Mediterranean states, notably Italy, which have borne the brunt of growing numbers of refugees and economic migrants, and poorer ex-Communist countries in the east, who feared costs and disruption from EU proposals to force them to take in a share of those in transit. So far, European countries have been paralyzed when it comes to the migration crisis. During talks in Luxembourg on June 17, EU interior ministers disagreed over the distribution of 40,000 migrants arriving in Italy and Greece among the 28-nation bloc to ease the load on the two southern European nations. Moreover, the EU proposals have not received enough backing from EU countries.

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