A first group of refugees will be relocated to Spain from Greece this weekend, the Spanish government said Friday, as part of the European Union’s program to redistribute arriving refugees more equally across EU countries. But many say the process is going far too slowly, resettling only a handful of people even as more than 10,000 arrive each day.
A total of 19 refugees — most of them women from Eritrea — will be transported to Madrid from Italy on Sunday, said Spanish Deputy Prime Minster Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. They are among 854 people slated for resettlement in Spain by the end of this year, under Spain’s participation in the EU’s refugee quota system. A total of 1,499 people will be resettled there in the next two years, Sáenz de Santamaría said.
Critics say the resettlement numbers — 19 on Sunday and 116 others before — can’t keep up with the scale of the refugee crisis, which warrants resettlement actions much greater than those being currently pledged. At a migration summit in September, EU Vice President Frans Timmermans said the "numbers [being accepted] today are much too small.”
Reluctant to accept greater numbers of refugees, individual EU policymakers have proposed other measures to keep more people from coming. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested that the EU set up stations on its borders to conduct preliminary background checks and determine whether people would qualify for asylum.
About 773,000 people, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria, Eritrea and Iraq, have crossed EU borders this year, and about 3,300 are believed to have died trying to do so. Some estimate that up to 3 million people will reach Europe and request asylum by 2017.
On Wednesday, six families from Iraq and Syria were moved from Greece to Luxembourg with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assists the EU in its resettlement efforts. Earlier, Finland took in 48 people from Italy, according to the EU.
This week’s moves follow the launch of the refugee quota system and resettlement of the first group of refugees on Oct. 8 from Italy to Sweden, which agreed to take in about 820 people from Italy and 548 from Greece as part of a plan to resettle 40,000 refugees from both countries. At a migration summit in September, EU countries — except for eastern European nations such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, which refused to take part in the quota scheme — agreed to resettle another 120,000, bringing the total to 160,000.
The refugee crisis shows no signs of abating as winter approaches and people scramble for shelter ahead of the cold. Well over 600,000 people this year reached Greek shores, where authorities struggle to provide humanitarian assistance. Germany continues to receive about 10,000 people per day, authorities said last week.
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