In “Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs - LIBE”

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In its European Agenda on Migration presented on 13 May 2015, the Commission proposed a series of immediate actions to address the unprecedented influx of migrants on the EU's southern borders, and the large numbers of tragic deaths of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean irregularly.

The European Commission proposed to use the emergency response mechanism under Article 78(3) of the TFEU for the first time in order to set up a temporary relocation scheme applying to a total of 40 000 persons (from states with an average asylum recognition rate of above 75%) in need of international protection, arrived in either Italy (24 000) or Greece (16 000) after 15 April 2015 (no retroactivity).

The relocation from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States would take place over the period of 2 years in accordance with a distribution key based on four criteria: i) the national GDP (40%), ii) size of the population (40%), iii) unemployment level (10%) and iv) the number of asylum-seekers already hosted (10%). Thus, the proposed decision entails a limited and temporary derogation to the provisions of the Dublin Regulation as regards the criteria for determining the State responsible for examining an asylum application.

The EU budget will provide an additional €240 million to support the 24 months scheme. Member States will receive a €6 000 lump sum under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for each relocated person on their territory.

The European Parliament adopted its opinion on 9 September 2015. The legislative resolution on the emergency relocation of the initial 40 000 asylum seekers was approved by 498 votes to 158, with 37 abstentions. The Parliament stressed that more contributions to solidarity will be needed and suggested the establishment of a permanent scheme in the future, providing for a mandatory and automatically triggered relocation system in case of emergency. The Parliament also proposed that asylum seekers should be given the possibility, before they are relocated from Italy and Greece, to rank member states by order of preference, according to criteria such as family, social and cultural ties, such as language skills, previous stays, studies and work experience.

On 18 May 2017, the European Parliament issued a resolution, urging Member States to fulfil their obligations on relocation. The Parliament acknowledged that some progress had been made, but expressed its disappointment regarding the unfulfilled commitments of Member States to solidarity and responsibility sharing. It called on the Member States to give priority to the relocation of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable applicants.

The proposed Council Decision was discussed at the June 2015 European Council. It was agreed that a decision on the temporary and exceptional relocation distribution - which will remain voluntary rather than mandatory as proposed by the Commission - would be taken by consensus in the Justice and Home Affairs Council by the end of July. The adoption of the decision required a qualified majority in Council after consultation of the Parliament. Denmark has an opt-out under the Treaty, and did not participate, neither did the UK. Ireland has an opt-in possibility.

The Council reached a general approach on a draft decision on 20 July 2015. On 14 September 2015, the extraordinary Home Affairs Council adopted the decision establishing a temporary and exceptional relocation mechanism over two years from the frontline Member States Italy and Greece to other Member States, which entered into force on 15 September 2015. It shall apply until 17 September 2017 to:

  • persons arriving on the territory of Italy or Greece as from 16 September 2015 until 17 September 2017, as well as
  • applicants having arrived on the territory of those Member States from 15 August 2015 onwards.

At its meeting of 28 June 2016, the European Council reiterated its call for further action to accelerate the implementation of the relocation and resettlement schemes. The Bratislava Roadmap of 16 September 2016 reaffirmed the need to apply the principles of responsibility and solidarity in future migration policy.

Halfway through the implementation of relocation, 5,651 people had been relocated. The Commission emphasized in its report of 27 September 2016 that with the continuous arrival of migrants in Italy and the still challenging humanitarian situation in Greece, relocation remained crucial to alleviate the pressure in these countries.

In its twelfth progress report published on 13 June 2017, the Commission regretted that despite repeated calls, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland had yet to take the necessary action. The Commission decided to launch infringement procedures on 14 June 2017 against these three Member States. On 7 December 2017, the European Commission referred the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation.

The Commission confirmed that Member States' legal obligations do not stop at the end of the emergency scheme in September 2017, but will extend to a reasonable timeframe thereafter.

In the progress report on the European Agenda on Migration published on 15 November 2017, the Commission noted that the relocation of eligible applicants by Member States continued. The Commission insisted that it was important to swiftly relocate all the remaining eligible persons having arrived in Greece and Italy until September 26 (around 37 000 people). By 7 March 2018, a total of 33 846 asylum seekers (11 999 from Italy and 21 847 from Greece) had been effectively relocated.


Further reading:

Author: Anita Orav Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on Migration.

As of 20/11/2019.