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A lot can happen in a month. At the beginning of September, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (unelected), wrote stern words to Viktor Orbán, chastising him for Hungary’s lack of solidarity. He wrote:

Solidarity is not an à-la-carte dish (…) to be rejected when it comes to complying with relocation decisions that have been jointly agreed.

At the time, it seemed clear that Juncker was complaining about the lack of cooperation with the EU’s relocation program. TOC has written extensively on the topic: from its source in the great influx of immigrants into Italy, to refugees in Lithuania simply leaving for what they deemed a better location. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic refusing to participate in the program. Austrian protests.

All in all, based on the EU’s own figures, when it comes to fighting ‘irregular’ migration (only 36% of irregular migrants are returned) or relocation, the EU seems to be failing.

Nevertheless, the EU now plans to bring in an additional 50.000 migrants into Europe, to “discourage” illegal migration by sea:

“The EU unveiled plans Wednesday to take at least 50,000 refugees directly from Africa, the Middle East and Turkey to discourage migrant boats from making the risky Mediterranean crossing.

The proposal involves admitting refugees to European Union countries over the next two years under the bloc’s resettlement progress, which was introduced during the migration crisis that hit the continent in 2015.”

With this information in mind, watch the following exchange between a journalist and a spokesperson for the EU:

“In our opinion, the relocation programme has proved to be a success, with over 29.000 persons having been relocated under international protection from Greece and Italy over the past two years. We would also like to stress that it’s important that Member States continue to fulfil their commitments and legal obligations under the relocation scheme, to assure that all those who are eligible are relocated, also after the 26th of September (…). Around another 10.000 persons still, need to be relocated.”

To call he policy a success rather curious indeed. Especially since two years on, a mere fifth of the originally intended 160.000 migrants has actually been relocated successfully. See the table of the number the EU wanted member states to take in, contrasted with the number they actually took in, below.


But it gets curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. Back on 16 May 2017, the EU claimed that 16.163 people had been resettled under the Greece and Italy relocation schemes. On 6 September – a day after Juncker’s letter to Orbán – the number was ‘updated‘ to 22.518 resettled.

In the most recent publication – published, incidentally, after the verdict on a court case on the resettlement program – the number jumps to 29.144 as per 27 September. With only around 4.000 immigrants from Greece and about 7.200 from Italy eligible for relocation. The problem seems to have disappeared:

The relocation scheme applies to eligible asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy between
September 2015 and September 2017. Based on the arrival figures at the time and the expectation that they would continue at the same rate, Member States agreed to support Greece with the relocation of 63,302 persons in need of international protection and Italy with 34,953 – a total of around 98,000. But with the EU-Turkey Statement reducing irregular flows to Greece by 97 % and the majority of migrants arriving in Italy not being eligible, the number of persons to be relocated turned out to be much lower.

So much surprised, Alice was, that for a moment she quite forgot to notice that in its introduction to the fact sheet in question, it says:

Europe has consistently shown generosity and true solidarity towards those in need of protection during the migration crisis. Over the past year alone, we have opened our doors to more than 720,000 persons in need of protection. The relocation scheme has contributed to ensuring that responsibility is shared fairly between Member States.

So in short, of an original 98.000 eligible candidates for relocation, only about 29.000 have been relocated. Where are the other 69.000 candidates? Did they never come? What about the 720.000 persons in need of protection in 2017 alone? Were they not eligible? They can’t have been returned: the EU itself claimed that in 2016, there were around 500.000 people ordered to leave the EU, while only 226.000 were actually returned. Has the EU lost track of these people? So when EU Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos states that:

We have made enormous progress on relocation over the past two years. The success of the scheme must be assessed against its capability to relocate all those present and eligible – a perfectly feasible objective if Member States continue their efforts during the last stage of the scheme.

You know it might be time to go out and buy more salt. Because this takes more than a pinch.