The European Commission has revealed plans to bring at least 1000 refugees to Europe and to return home 15 000 more illegal migrants from Libya by February.
Libya is included for the first time in the EU resettlement program together with Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad, and Ethiopia. The new scheme is designed for 50 000 refugees during the next two years. The transfers will be executed through the UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism, the European Commission announced, indicating the first 25 people were evacuated from Tripoli in November.
We are well on track to reach the 50 000 pledges for resettlement for the next two years’’
EU commissioner on migration Dimitris Avramopulos Speaking after the EU interior ministers meeting on 7 December,
So far 19 out of the 28 EU governments agreed to accept a total of 39 758 refugees from Africa under the new programme. The voluntary scheme foresees €10 000 to be paid from the EU budget for each resettled person. Half a billion euro will be mobilised under the scheme. At least 25 000 the refugees are scheduled to come to Europe by next October, with the rest arriving by May 2019.
The new program is following from the 2015 scheme by the end of the year. Under the latter 22 500, mostly Syrian refugees were flown from the camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to Europe.
In a separate effort the Commission is offering to fund the return of 15 000 more economic migrants stranded there to their homes by February 2018. The job will be assigned to the newly set up Task Force for Libya which main objective is to speed up the returns of migrants and the evacuations of refugees from Libya.
Since the beginning of the year the EU and the IOM have already returned home around 14 000 migrants from the North African state. The EU has pledged at the beginning of the year to evacuate 15 000 people in 2017, a target that will be reached in the coming days, an EU official said.
The migration roadmap, part of which are the enforced engagements with migrants in Libya, will be presented by the EC’s president Jean-Claud Juncker to the EU Summit next week (14-15 December) after the EU leaders asked to have stock of what is the EU doing in the migration field.
To raise awareness about the dangers of crossing the see to Europe, the task force team will be spreading information trying to reach up to 23 500 migrants currently in Libya, the document says.
The EU did not create the horrible situation of refugees in Libya. What the EU is engaged in doing is to quickly improve it. The only way forward is to get the relevant international organisations, specially the UNHCR and the IOM, in the camps and make sure that the situation there improves rapidly,
First vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans ahead of the Summit.
He added resettlement and returns are important part of the work to help stranded people. The Commission considers resettlements the crown jewel of its migration policy and would like to convince the leaders to transform it into a legal economic migration channel.
A permanent framework for resettlement to replace the temporary schemes should be adopted by May, the Commission migration agenda shows. The proposal made already in July 2016 is still negotiated between the Council and the European Parliament.
The new Commission’s analysis is also trying to persuade the EU governments ‘’to explore ways to establish private sponsorship schemes’’, where the settlement and the integration support for migrants is provided not by public funds but by private groups of civil society organisations. Pilot projects with selected African countries could apply for Commission’s financial assistance already in 2018. The EU coffer will open for countries willing to invite migrants directly from outside the Union for ‘’economic purposes’’, the document suggests.
In order to secure money for its ambitious plans in Africa the Commission is also urging the EU governments to fill the gap in the EU-Africa Trust Fund, which is currently estimated to reach €340 million by March.
There is no sea wide enough, no fence high enough to prevent people from coming if desperation takes a hold. If they don’t see any alternative, they will climb even the highest wall. That’s not what we want to do”, Timmermans warned.
He argued the crisis passed its acute phase and the EU has now to prepare better to live with migration for one or two generations to come. The Commission is hoping to speed up the process of adopting new legislation by ‘’putting pressing deadlines’’, said the VP.
The final decision will be for the EU member state leaders to make, though. So far, 15 out of 23 legislative pieces proposed since 2015 have become EU law. However, most extensive files like the new asylum and return policies and the reform of the Schengen zone are still in the making.