11 March 2016

Ahead of the meeting on 7 March between EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey, UNHCR proposed a six-point plan for EU Member States to solve the refugee situation in Europe. It calls for better implementation of the ‘hotspot’ approach and relocation measures, increased support for the emergency response in Greece, improved compliance with EU asylum law, more safe and legal routes to Europe, safeguards for individuals at risk, and a European-wide system of responsibility for asylum seekers.

High Commissioner Filippo Grandi considers that the ‘collective failure’ to implement agreed measures has led to the current escalation in the crisis, with around 30,000 people currently in Greece, thousands of whom are sleeping in the open in Idomeni. In light of this, UNHCR recommends that the relocation scheme is fully applied, as well as ensuring the effective return of those not in need of international protection. It adds that the Dublin Regulation should be used to transfer asylum seekers eligible for relocation back to Greece so that they can enter the relocation process. However, ECRE believes that this would be premature and has urged the EU and Member States not to resume Dublin transfers to Greece, due to ongoing shortcomings of the Greek asylum system and the need to alleviate pressure on Greece.

UNHCR reiterates its call for States to increase admission pathways for Syrian refugees, such as resettlement, humanitarian admission and family reunification. It invites States to make admission commitments at its upcoming meeting on March 30. UNHCR also advocates for a new approach to ensure solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility between Member States by establishing European Registration Centres in the main countries of arrival, with asylum seekers distributed among Member States according to a distribution key. After being granted protection, they should be allowed to establish themselves in another EU Member State after six months. Grandi adds that ‘there is really no other option than working together to solve this’.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 March 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.