10 July 2015

A newly published draft report by MEP Ska Keller focuses on the proposal of the Commission for a voluntary plan to relocate a total of 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States. According to the draft report, asylum applicants’ preferences need to be taken into account by the host Member States during the relocation determination procedure. In particular, the decision needs to consider family or community relationships, as well as language skills and social and cultural ties that asylum seekers may have in a particular country. In addition, applicants of international protection should not be relocated if they do not give their consent.

The report argues that the above-mentioned considerations will make it easier for people to integrate into their preferred, and agreed, host countries, following their move. For similar reasons, Member States’ preferences should be also taken into account in order to increase the likelihood of a longer and more successful integration. “We should try to bring Member States and refugees together, that want to be together, in order to facilitate the success of this (relocation) programme”, highlighted Ska Keller at the Parliament. The report also determines that if asylum seekers’ preferences are duly considered, they will have no interest in moving from the relocation country to another Member State, thus avoiding ‘secondary movements’. These concerns were identified following the failure of the Maltese EUREMA relocation project, during which the lack of knowledge of migrants of their Member State of relocation was recognised. Mindful of these issues, the report recommends that a new relocation proposal should ensure that applicants for international protection receive all necessary information regarding the relocation process, including the reasons why their preferences may not eventually be taken into account, in a language that they can understand.

Taking into account the significant increase of asylum seekers and refugees in the first months of 2015, the draft report highlights the need to relocate up to 50,000 asylum seekers.  “Just to give one number, in Greece, the number [of people arriving] has increased six-fold, compared to the same period last year”, stressed Ska Keller, during a LIBE Committee meeting on Monday in Strasbourg.

Even though, according to the text, the scheme should be a binding commitment in line with the initial intentions of the Commission, Member States construe it as a voluntary offer. “It was quite disappointing that on a very symbolic measure where we were all looking for a kind of EU agreement, that was not the case”, Ska Keller said, adding: “Solidarity was called for a voluntary basis but how solidarity is supposed to work I am not quite sure. We need a binding mechanism in order to make solidarity work.”

The debate on the proposed amendments to the report will be held on 15 July and the vote in the LIBE Committee will take place on 16 July.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 10 July 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.