The European Commission has decided to initiate infringement proceedings against the countries that do not participate in the refugee resettlement program: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. What does the refugee relocation, however, look like in terms of facts, numbers and perspectives?
How does the EU deal with the relocation of migrants?
As the British left-wing newspaper The Guardian warned at the end of 2016, only 5% (8,162) of the migrants planned for relocation were transferred from Italy and Greece. By April it was over 16,000 people or 10%.
The number of refugees to be relocated has been reduced to 98,000 people, but it is expected that the total amount of refugees will eventually amount to 33,000. Far fewer refugees than expected meet the criteria necessary for transfer. Such information was provided by the Commissioner Dimitris Avrampolous, on April 12 of this year.
There are also numerous specific requirements that Greece and Italy must fulfill. Some countries take only children and single mothers with children. Others demand that refugees be sent only at the end of a given month by chartered flights.
How do individual states handle the reception of refugees?
Poland and Hungary are not the only countries to refuse refugees (as of 9 June). Austria also suspended the admission of refugees, which in 2015 was left with a large group of refugees in transit to Germany after the German Chancellor changed her mind about open borders. Finally, in May, Austria announced its intention to accept refugees.
Denmark and the United Kingdom, which during the admission negotiations secured exclusion from the common migration policy, also did not accept refugees. Among the countries that took only a symbolic number of refugees are Slovakia (16), Czech Republic (12), Croatia (36) and Bulgaria (47).
Do refugees prefer to live in a safe Eastern Europe or a more prosperous Western Europe?
Discussions have continued whether refugees will voluntarily stay in Eastern European countries while having the choice of moving to the Western Europe since the relocation mechanisms were initiated. In November 2016, the British “Daily Express” reported that in Lithuania out of 90 refugees there were only 18 left. According to the Latvian Red Cross, more than half of the 63 relocated refugees had fled. In Estonia, all 77 officially admitted refugees stayed, but the country offers support comparable to Western nations.
Does Europe solve the problem of Syrian refugees?
Out of the approximately 12.5 million Syrians who are refugees as a result of the ongoing war, only about one million sought asylum in Europe. 4-5 million are located in camps in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. Almost 7 million are internally displaced refugees.
The funds to help one million Syrians are dedicated funds that could to a large extent meet the needs of all the refugees in the areas of their origins. In 2016, due to the immigration crisis, Germany alone spent more than 20 billion euros and in 2017 plans to spend 37 billion.
Are refugee issues related to the Eurosceptic movement?
On the contrary – according to a survey from the first quarter of 2016, Poland and Hungary are the most pro-European countries where 72% and 61% are in favor of the European Union. Initiation of the infringement proceedings against these countries may change this status.
Similarly, the acceptance of refugees does not increase the enthusiasm for ever greater European integration. Sweden (85%), the Netherlands (73%), Germany (68%) are in favor of leaving the integration at the current level or reversing the processes.
Are only Poles and Hungarians against the enforced refugee relocation?
Most Europeans (55%) are against immigration from Muslim countries. More than 60% of Belgians, French, and Austrians want to stop the process of refugee relocation. Also over half of Germans, Greeks, and Italians are against this process.
Interestingly, according to Euractiv, long before the crisis, in 2011 EU citizens were also reluctant regarding immigration. At that time, when asked about immigration the average Pole was comparatively more open than the citizens of the old EU countries.
What about solidarity with Greece and Italy?
Both countries are exposed to immigration from Africa and Asia because of their relative proximity to these areas and because their island territories are difficult to secure. Because of the pressure from media and public opinion, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are “taken” out of smugglers’ boats and transported to refugee centers. The non-governmental organizations are involved, often accused of collaborating with traffickers.
Assistance to vulnerable countries should include help in reduction of the inflow of immigrants, together with financial and logistical support for refugees remaining in refugee camps outside of the EU.
Refugees or immigrants?
A significant question from the beginning of the immigration crisis is the following: are these people actual refugees or simply economic immigrants and how to verify their status? The refugee relocation mechanism is intended only for refugees, but in Germany, the process of checking people has already been proven to be outrageously inadequate.
It raises the question: Can refugees arriving in safe countries and being no longer “directly threatened” by the loss of their lives, as defined by the 1951 Geneva Convention, still be considered refugees? Moving on to the rich Western European countries reveals their economic motives.
Even in the left leaning “Guardian,” it was noted that “the exodus from war-torn and maladministered countries, the desirability of the EU, and the Geneva definition of “refugee” are generating a demand that is beyond the capacity of even Germany’s generosity.”
Avoiding similar situations in the future would result in narrowing the definition of refugee status, acceleration of asylum procedures and deportation. On the other hand, according to the convention, care does not belong to people who have become internal refugees who had to leave their homes but remain within a given country.
The scale of illegal immigration proves the fact that in 2016 in Italy only 2.65% of asylum seekers were granted asylum.
How does the relocation relate to the Dublin system?
The refugee relocation system is a temporary derogation from the Dublin system, which weighs the burden of examining an asylum applicant in the EU country where the asylum seeker first appeared.
It also means that if a person is granted a residence in Poland and then goes to another country, he will be returned, already under the Dublin agreement as Poland will be treated as the country of the first entry.
Will acceptance of refugee relocation quotas solve the problem?
In the refugee relocation system adopted in 2015 it will, but the European Commission has submitted an amendment to the law that will introduce permanent relocation mechanisms.
We should also remember about the right for each family to reunite, which obliges the country to accept the refugee’s family members.
How much will Poland pay for not accepting refugees?
First and foremost, before reaching the point of paying fines, a multi-stage procedure led by the European Commission must be completed and then the case will go to the Court of Justice. The financial sanctions will take a few years to take effect, so the outcome of the procedures may already take place with another set of bureaucrats in the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as an entirely different perception of the problem of immigration.
It is unknown what kind of punishment the disobedient countries might pay. So far, there have been penalties ranging from 300,000 to several million euros. However, the conversion of the cost of living of refugees in EU countries has been mentioned. In this case, the sum would amount to several thousand euros per day.
It is unlikely that a fine of 250,000 euro would be imposed as a punishment for every denied refugee, as proposed by the European Commission. In this case, the cost of living of a refugee would sum up to 20,000 euros per month, which is completely unreasonable. If Germany were to spend 20 billion euros during the crisis in 2016 with an estimated 1 million asylum seekers, this would give an annual cost of 20,000 euros per head. Besides, this is a proposal of new permanent relocation mechanisms, regardless of the decisions from 2015.
The Polish original: