Despite attempts by the European Union (EU) to redistribute some 160,000 migrants from Greece and Italy, the political bloc has so far only managed to resettle less than 10 per cent of their target.
The EU has pushed for the redistribution of migrants since 2016 when borders of many of the Schengen zone countries were restricted for asylum seekers. The bloc stated a goal of 160,000 asylum seekers to be spread out to member states across the union, but many countries have simply refused to take any additional migrants, Kurier reports.
Countries like Austria, Denmark, Hungary, and Poland have not taken any migrants from Italy or Greece since the programme was announced.
Last October, the Hungarian government took the issue to the electorate and held a referendum on the issue. While the participation rate failed to give the referendum legally binding status, the overwhelming majority of voters did not want more migrants sent to Hungary.
While the programme has severely lagged it did increase in December with 1,926 migrants being sent to different countries. Most migrants were relocated in France which accepted 2,445 asylum seekers from Greece and 282 from Italy. Germany is second and has taken in 1,342 from Greece and 700 from Italy. The Netherlands has taken 939 migrants from Greece and 422 from Italy.
EU vice-president Frans Timmermans said: “The news about the redistribution is not good.” He stressed EU member states should take in more migrants to prevent potential humanitarian disasters in Greece and Italy.
“Greece and Italy should be able to count on the solidarity of the other member states,” Timmermans said and claimed, “it is highly unfair to leave the problem to Greece and Italy”.
Greece and Italy are most often the first EU countries migrants arrive in and have largely been left with a growing number of migrants who can’t leave due to border restrictions. While Greece has seen a decrease in new migrants because of the EU-Turkey migrant agreement, there are still tens of thousands of migrants stranded in the country.
Italy has overtaken Greece for migrant arrivals and saw a record number arrive in the country in 2016. According to reports, Italy took in over 170,000 migrants in 2016 who mainly came across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya and other North African countries.
The forecast for 2017 has not been much more optimistic with members of the EU expecting “record levels” of migration in the spring.