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EU’s refugee quotas end but divisions persist
September 27, 2017
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Brussels: The EU’s troubled migrant quota scheme wraps up on Wednesday after two years, but while it draws a line under the most intense phase of the crisis, divisions over migration are deeper than ever.
Opposed from the start by eastern states, the programme has seen less than a fifth of a planned 160,000 Syrians and other asylum-seekers relocated around the bloc from Italy and Greece by the use of compulsory quotas.

Brussels insists that the scheme was a success which eased intolerable pressure on frontline Mediterranean states from the biggest migration crisis to hit Europe since World War II.

Europe’s asylum rules -- which state that an asylum-seeker’s application must be dealt with by the country where the person first arrives in the EU -- will now return to normal from one minute past midnight on Wednesday (2201 GMT Tuesday).

“From our point of view, the relocation programme has been a success,” a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said this week.

A total of 29,000 people have been relocated from Italy and Greece over the past two years under the quotas, which initially set out a compulsory number of Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans that each EU state must take.

While no more new arrivals will be relocated, another 10,000 who have already made it to Greece and Italy before Tuesday’s cut-off date are still eligible.

The figure is however a far cry from the original plan to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers in a first phase of compulsory quotas -- against a total of 1.5 million migrants and refugees who arrived in Europe by sea since the start of 2015.

EU officials say that is partly because arrivals dropped drastically after a 2016 deal with Turkey, while most of those arriving in Italy come from African countries or others that do not qualify for the relocation scheme.

“The number of people eligible for relocation has turned out to be much smaller” than initially believed in September 2015, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

“That explanation holds,” said Yves Pascouau, a migration expert at Nantes university in France.

But he added that many of those who would have been eligible carried on from Greece in the great sweep of migrants up through Europe to the north in late 2015, he said.

“They sort of relocated themselves, so from this perspective, you can’t talk of success.”

Agence France-Presse

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