In September 2015, the Commission obtained the approval from the Council of a very ambitious relocation plan. After very difficult negotiations, it was decided that 66.000 potential beneficiaries of international protection would have been relocated in 2015 from Italy and Greece (15.600 from Italy and 50.400 from Greece), while 54.000 would have been relocated in 2016 on the basis of an evaluation of the evolution of the situation in every EU countries. The relocation scheme was created to ensure a more even distribution of asylum seekers across EU Member States and relieve some of the burden not only on Greece and Italy, but also on countries like Germany and Sweden that have taken a large part of the new arrivals.
At the end of January 2016, only 273 asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy.
Indeed, the results of relocation plan are extremely deceiving so far. Hotspots, Commission-sponsored centres where migrants are meant to be first screened, identified, and registered, to facilitate the process of relocation, are not fully functional. In Italy, two hotspots have been opened (Trapani and Lampedusa), out of the six promised. Greece has, reportedly, only one functioning hotspot, in Lesbos (out of the five promised), despite the shift in migration trends, that make Greece the largest single entry point for new sea arrivals in the Mediterranean.
For many refugees, the relocation system is unknown or unclear. Many do not trust it. Relocation means waiting for weeks before being sent to countries that are less known outside the European Union and less attractive. Therefore, in many cases, potential beneficiaries prefer not to be identified and, sometimes, to continue alone their journey towards the targeted country.
It is also interesting to notice that Afghans, who represented around 20 percent of Europe’s refugee arrivals in 2015, are not included in the list of potential beneficiaries of international protection eligible for relocation, as their likelihood of getting refugee status is well below the 75-percent threshold required for the programme.
Another important cause of the current failure of the relocation scheme is the refusal of certain Member States to comply with the system agreed. Few of them were against since the very beginning of the discussion – Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia (which will chair the EU after the Netherlands). Others became skeptical after the terrorist attacks in Paris and the events in Germany.
The Commissioner Avramopoulos recently asked Member States to step up their efforts, but the future of EU plans on migration management is indeed unstable and uncertain.