The European Union’s top migration official told lawmakers on Thursday that efforts to manage the refugee crisis were failing and that the ongoing deadlock threatened unity in Europe.
“The situation is getting worse,” migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said about the refugee crisis during a Civil Liberties Committee debate, the Associated Press reported. Earlier this month, Germany announced it had not seen a decrease in the number of refugees coming into the country, with the daily average still at 3,200.
Avramopoulos also talked about the future of the passport-free travel zone and said that “more and more member states are reintroducing border controls” warning that if Schengen collapsed it would be “the beginning of the end of the European project,” the Associated Press reported.
Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and France are among the nations to have re-introduced at least partial border controls amid safety and organising concerns caused by the huge number of asylum seekers arriving into Europe.
The commissioner revealed that the EU’s executive commission would announce measures to strengthen the bloc’s outer borders in March. Over the last months, the EU has been discussing different measures to control its borders.
The migration commissioner also admitted the relocation scheme for 160,000 asylum seekers was not working as less than 300 people had been relocated since September. Many European countries were reticent to the relocation plan and some announced they would challenge it and not accept any asylum seekers.
A diplomat, quoted by Politico, said that the New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne made the situation even worse as many attackers were identified as asylum seekers. “If some countries already … were reluctant to take in single men, you can imagine what will happen now,” the diplomat told Politico.
Over one million people have come to Europe seeking asylum in 2015, most of them fleeing war zones in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Most of the refugees entered the block in Greece after passing through Turkey.
In December 2015, the EU agreed to pay Turkey £2.3 billion in an effort to curb the number of asylum seekers coming in. Avramopoulos though said during the debate that the numbers of asylum seekers coming in through Turkey were still too high. “We cannot be satisfied with the speed of implementation… We need to see results,” the commissioner said, according to Politico.
Acknowledging that the European asylum system needs to be rethought, he also stressed the importance for EU nations to send back those who do not qualify for asylum. “Europe will provide protection for those who need it, but those who have no right to be here have to be returned,” Avramopoulos said.
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