EC proposes transferring 788 refugees from Greece and Italy to Bulgaria

EC proposes transferring 788 refugees from Greece and Italy to Bulgaria

Sofia, May 28, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

The system for quotas for transferring migrants proposed by the European Commission (EC) envisages moving a total of 788 refugees from Greece and Italy to Bulgaria within the next two years.

The proposal unveiled on May 27 would see a total of 40 000 people relocated from Greece and Italy to other EU countries on a quota system over the next two years. The EC said that the figure corresponded to about 40 per cent of the total number of asylum seekers in clear need of international protection who entered these countries in 2014.

The EC said that it was ready to do the same if other EU member states – such as Malta – also face a sudden influx of migrants.

If Bulgaria faces a sudden influx of migrants, the EC may propose a new distribution key, European Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference, responding to a question at a news conference, Bulgarian news agency BTA reported. The Commission may propose to the rest of the member states to share part of that burden.

EU countries will receive 6000 euro for each person relocated on their territory.

The EC migrant relocation quota system has been rejected by a number of countries, but Bulgaria is among those whose top officials have spoken in favour of it.

The proposal on May 27 detailed the distribution to each country. Bulgaria would be asked to accept 343 refugees from Italy, 229 refugees from Greece and 216 displaced migrants.

The distribution of refugees is determined by a number of factors, including the production of national economies, the population of the countries, the unemployment rate and the number of refugees who are already in the territory of the country.

The proposals must be discussed and approved at the summit of the EU on June 25 and 26 in Brussels. Given the resistance among several EU countries, it is doubtful that it would be adopted, at least in its current form, if at all.

European Commission Vice President for Budget and Human Resources Kristalina Georgieva, in a May 27 statement on the draft EU budget for 2016, said: “We are responding to the growing issue of migration. We are proposing a 36 per cent increase in payments for the Migration and Integration Fund that would bring this fund to 521 million euro in 2016”.

The EC presented several measures on May 27 fleshing out the detail of its plan to respond to migration pressure.

The EC said that it was proposing to use the emergency response mechanism under Article 78 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

This provision, which is being activated for the first time, will be used to set up an emergency relocation scheme to assist Italy and Greece.

This scheme will apply to Syrian and Eritrean nationals in need of international protection that arrived in either Italy or Greece after April 15 2015 or that arrive after the mechanism is launched.

The EC said that it had adopted a recommendation asking member states to resettle20 000 people from outside the EU, in clear need of international protection as identified by the UNHCR, over two years, based on a distribution key.

Member states who participate in the scheme will be entitled to financial support, with the EU making 50 million euro available in 2015-16.

The plan for 2015-2020 sets out concrete actions to prevent and counter migrant smuggling, the EC said.

Actions include setting up a list of suspicious vessels; dedicated platforms to enhancing co-operation and exchange of information with financial institutions; and co-operating with internet service providers and social media to ensure internet content used by smugglers to advertise their activities is swiftly detected and removed.

The EC said that for the EU’s common asylum system to work effectively, migrants need to be systematically fingerprinted on arrival. The Commission services have published guidelines for member states setting out a best practices approach for fingerprinting newly arrived applicants for international protection.

“Hotspot” teams from EASO, Frontex and Europol will work on the ground to swiftly identify, register and fingerprint incoming migrants and assess those who are in need of protection.

The Commission wants to improve the existing EU Blue Card scheme, which aims to make it easier for highly skilled people to come and work in the EU but is currently scarcely used.

The public consultation invites stakeholders (migrants, employers, governmental organisations, trade unions, NGOs, employment agencies, etc.) to share their views on the EU Blue Card and how it can be improved.

The Commission also”noted” a new Operational Plan for Operation Triton. The new Operational Plan for the reinforced Joint Operation Triton sets out the new number of assets: 10 maritime, land and 8 33 air assets, and 121 human resources. The Operational Plan also extends the geographical area of Triton southwards to the borders of the Maltese search and rescue zone to cover the area of the former Italian Mare Nostrum operation.

Meanwhile, media reports on May 27 said that Greek police detained 12 000 illegal immigrants last month, most of them from Syria.

The number of illegal immigrants arrested by Greek border guards in April exceeds by seven times the number for the same period in 2014.

In recent months, the flow of refugees trying to enter the EU countries has increased significantly.In particular, the total number of immigrants illegally penetrated the territory of Greece from the beginning of this year is more than 40 000.

The authorities on the Greek island of Kos said they rescued 1200 people in the past two days.

The island is located only four miles from the Turkish coast and for many immigrants it is the fastest and most secure way to the EU.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing the European Parliament on May 27,emphasised the importance of addressing the challenge of migration, in the Mediterranean and in Southeast Asia.

“Too many women, men and children are losing their lives in perilous journeys of escape,” he said. “Half those crossing the Mediterranean are fleeing war or persecution or human rights abuses. They qualify for international protection as refugees.”

About 1800 had drowned in the Mediterranean this year already, he said, which was a 20-fold increase on 2014, and he emphasised the important role of Europe and the important collective responsibility it has to act.

“Saving lives should be the top priority,” he said. “And while we need to see more effective law enforcement actions against traffickers and smugglers, we also need safer alternatives to dangerous voyages, as well as legal channels such as resettlement, family reunification and work and study visas.”

He described meeting in Ireland several people from Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had been successfully re-settled, and he said that more such examples of offering a “helping hand” are needed.

He welcomed the European Commission’s new migration policy and the proposal for the relocation of 40 000 of asylum-seekers, as “a step in the right direction,” and he said the that the UN, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration (ION) would continue to work with European leaders to address the crisis in a way that upholds human rights and international law.

He said the root causes of migration need to be addressed, as does the stigma and discrimination suffered by migrants in countries of destination.

“Europe is experiencing low population growth and demographic transition to an aging population,” he said. “The equation is clear: to meet its workforce deficit and maintain its economic dynamism, Europe needs migrants,” Ban told the European Parliament.