BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU states virtually ignored a European Commission target for them to take in some 20,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy by mid-May, the bloc’s executive said on Wednesday, renewing a call for more action.
In a regular report on its emergency relocation scheme, which aims to move refugees from the Mediterranean frontline to the rest of the European Union, the EU executive’s data showed only 563 asylum seekers had been moved since it set the 20,000 target two months ago -- only 3 percent of the increase needed.
In total, 1,500 people have now been relocated since the scheme began late last year, a tiny fraction of the 160,000 that governments agreed to take after fractious negotiations in the face of an unprecedented surge in arrivals in Italy and Greece.
Noting that, since the closure of the Balkan route to Germany, some 46,000 migrants are now in Greece waiting for asylum claims to be processed, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “We cannot be satisfied with the results achieved so far. More has to be done, and swiftly.”
Some of the 28 member states, notably formerly communist countries in the east, have fiercely opposed Commission pressure on them to take in refugees, while most other governments have shown little enthusiasm for a scheme unpopular with many voters.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Alison Williams