International Organization for Migration, January 13, 2017
Over 10,000 asylum seekers have now been relocated from Greece and Italy to other European Union (EU) member states through the EU relocation programme, according to IOM, which is facilitating the operation.
This week, 168 people left Greece for Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal. Another 81 people were relocated from Italy to Spain. This brings the total number of people relocated under the scheme to 10,189 since its launch in October 2015.
While IOM welcomes the 10,000 milestone and continuing efforts to relocate eligible asylum seekers, it acknowledges that this number is far too low and is calling for a robust push to meet the goals of the two-year programme – the provision of 106,000 places in other EU member states.
Eugenio Ambrosi, Director of IOM’s Regional Office for the EU, Norway and Switzerland, said that faster and full implementation of the EU relocation plan will help to alleviate overcrowding and suffering among migrants and refugees now enduring harsh winter conditions in Greece.
“A very good plan is in place and IOM has been fully supporting its implementation, but what we are now seeing in Greece is the consequence of the delays. Picking up the pace of the relocations is not only operationally possible, it is absolutely vital for improving the living conditions and well-being of thousands of people eligible for relocation,” he said.
IOM is therefore calling for the provision of more dedicated relocation centres, which can help to increase the speed of relocation transfers and reduce bottlenecks in the process.
EU member states participating in the programme should also reduce processing time and increase the availability of accommodation for people who are ready to be relocated.
IOM also stresses that the pace of relocation for vulnerable applicants should be accelerated, especially for unaccompanied children. It is also important that relocated asylum seekers receive adequate reception and integration support after arrival.
Despite the slow overall progress, the number of asylum seekers that have participated in the Programme has been increasing in recent months.
A total of 5,000 asylum seekers were relocated in the programme’s first 11 months, whereas the next 5,000 people were relocated in only 3.5 months. An average of 1,371 people was relocated per month October to December 2016, a marked increase from an average of 486 per month in the first year of the programme.
A record number of people were relocated from Italy and Greece in December 2016. For Italy, there were almost twice as many people relocated in November and more than three times October’s total.
Among the beneficiaries granted the chance to start a new life through the programme were Samel Alqudsi, Marah Saed and Majd Iskandarani. They travelled from Syria to Greece and were relocated to Germany. You can follow their story here.
Ismael and his family come from Idlib, Syria, and have been relocated to France. “We are looking for a future for our children, and for us,” Ismael said. Here’s their story.
France (2,702), the Netherlands (1,216) and Germany (1,099) have received the most asylum seekers to date under the scheme.
Another 1,193 people are expected to be relocated from Greece and Italy to other EU member and associated states by the end of January 2017.
As of 31 December 2016, Syrians comprised the majority of EU relocation beneficiaries (58 percent), followed by Eritreans (27 percent), Iraqis (12 percent) and other nationalities (3 percent). Women accounted for 39 percent of those relocated; 33 percent of the beneficiaries were under the age of 18. The programme has relocated 165 unaccompanied migrant children from Greece, with Finland accepting the largest number.
The programme is being implemented by IOM in close cooperation with Greek and Italian authorities and other agencies, with the continuing support of the European Commission, EU member states and other partners.
To help the migrants integrate in their new communities, IOM runs pre-departure orientation sessions, which provide useful information on their rights and obligations, as well as initial post-arrival reception and early integration assistance.
Vulnerable beneficiaries, including unaccompanied migrant children, pregnant women, newborns and migrants with medical needs are given additional support and care through specialized services, including best interest assessments for minors. Where necessary, IOM also provides medical escorts, as well as escorts for unaccompanied minors or large groups, to assist them during their travel.
Interpreters and cultural mediators are in contact with beneficiaries throughout the relocation process to ensure that they understand the procedures and can communicate any concerns or questions.
IOM staff are also present at airports of departure to provide assistance during boarding and reception assistance at transit airports and final destinations.
IOM has so far assisted over 300 group relocation movements to 23 European countries participating in the programme.