EU ministers agree to act faster on refugee crisis

European Union interior ministers agree to find solution as quickly as possible to rising refugee crisis in EU

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Interior and Foreign Ministers and Swiss President Sommaruga and EU Commissioner for Migration Avramopoulos attend a meeting in Brussels, November 9, 2015.

Updated Dec 8, 2015

On Monday, European Union interior ministers met over the ongoing refugee crisis and announced they would move faster to find a solution to stem the increasing refugee flow into Europe.

Dimitris Avramopolous, the EU migration commissioner, called on ministers to tighten external border controls, move refugees from Italy and Greece, and establish reception points throughout the refugee's main route through the Balkans from Greece.

"It is now time for them [the member states] to accelerate the work to make these promises a reality on the ground," the commissioner, a Greek national, stressed in a statement.

Avramopolous called on member states to contribute the staff and equipment to build the reception centers in Greece and Italy. Following this, people who applied for refugee status will be separated from economic migrants who will be returned to their country's of origin.

"We need to increase reception capacities. Now is the time for delivery on all fronts," Avramopoulos said.

The European Commission offered an all-round schedule in May to deal with the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War after almost 800 refugees drowned to death in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Italy from Libya.

The problem worsened over the summer after hundreds of thousands of refugees escaped from wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to reach Greece and the Balkans from Turkey.

Avramopolous said, "We need to see more relocations from Greece and Italy as a matter of urgency."

The EU eventually accepted the relocation plan last month despite strong opposition from Hungary and other Eastern European member countries.

However, only around 120 refugees have been transferred from Italy and Greece to some countries such as Sweden and Luxembourg, while Hungary is pressing Greece to strengthen its sea border controls.


At least 700,000 refugees arrive Europe this year

The UN refugee agency has said that at least 700,000 refugees have reached Europe through the Mediterranean between the start of this year year and October.

Over 562,000 refugees arrived on the shores of Greece while 140,000 arrived in Italy in 2015.

According to the figures given by UN for 2015, more than 705,200 people in total were able to cross the Mediterranean and reach European countries and 20 percent of refugees who arrived in Europe were children.

Six percent of arrivals were from Iraq, 18 percent were from Afghanistan and more than half of arrivals were from Syria where a civil war has killed more than 300,000 and forced 10.6 million people to flee the country since 2011.

At least 3,000 refugees have drowned while attempting to cross into Europe this year.

The International Organization for Migration said that bad weather and rough seas have affected its tracking of refugee boats, adding that as the weather has become more difficult more aerial surveillance has been put into place.


TRTWorld and agencies