EU fails to relocate 40,000 migrants

The EU failed  to agree on how to distribute 40,000 asylum seekers in Greece and Italy among its members over the next two years, postponing the decision until the end of the year, reports

Following the deaths of 700 people on a fishing boat heading for Italy from Libya in April, at a summit in June, EU leaders called for agreement on the relocation by the end of July – a potentially divisive move in some countries where far-right parties and populist anti-EU movements are gaining ground.

EU home affairs ministers agreed in Brussels on Monday to respect the summit’s indications by committing to the relocation of 40,000 migrants forecast to arrive in Greece and Italy over the next two years, but the actual numbers for each member state will be defined in another meeting by December.

Some 150,000 migrants fleeing wars and poverty have reached Europe by sea so far in 2015, the International Organization for Migration said, most of them arriving in Italy and Greece – two countries already hit by a long economic slump. Hundreds have drowned on the journey.

A deal is critical, as the EU also needs to turn its attention to the growing numbers of asylum seekers crossing the Balkan peninsula to reach Central Europe.

Hungary has received the EU’s highest number of asylum applications in the first quarter of 2015, according to European Union data, and has started building a security fence along its border with Serbia to keep illegal migrants out.

“We are almost there,” the EU’s Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference at the end of the meeting. “I am disappointed, but it was an important step forward,” he said.

The first asylum seekers may be relocated before a full deal is reached, “starting from October”, Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, said.