EU lashes members for dragging feet on pledges to help migrants

The EU has appealed to member states to deliver on promises to deal with the refugee emergency, warning that the Union’s credibility is at stake.

More than 600,000 people have entered Europe by land and sea this year seeking sanctuary or jobs, overwhelming border authorities and reception facilities. More than 3,000 have died.

In response, EU leaders promised to share refugees from Italy and Greece, boost spending, and send police, border guards, and experts to help register the arrivals.

So far actions have not matched the speeches delivered at five migration-focused summits this year.

“The gap between the pledges and what is on the table must be reduced, otherwise we are losing all kinds of credibility,” European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said.

The commission has drawn up plans to move 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece over the next two years to ease their burden.

“Nine member states have let us know that they can soon relocate 700 people,” Juncker said.

“But let’s not forget that we have a decision to relocate 160,000 refugees in need of international protection.”

EU border agency Frontex has appealed for 775 experts to help register, screen, and fingerprint people, but so far almost half that number has been pledged.

“Half is not enough, we need more,” said Juncker, warning that funding and experts are “crucially essential if we want operational decisions to be implemented”.

The commission has earmarked almost €10bn for spending on migration policy this year and next, he noted.

A month ago, EU nations promised to provide an extra €2.3bn, but only €86m has been pledged. Juncker said countries are “moving slowly at a time when they should be running”.

Croatia’s prime minister says he expects the refugee flow towards Western Europe to ease after Sunday’s parliamentary election in Turkey, the starting point for most migrants’ journeys.

Prime minister Zoran Milanovic said, “in 10 days or so, after the vote in Turkey... you will see the change”.

European officials appear to be assuming that Turkish officials will have more time to focus on the refugee crisis when the demands of campaigning are over.

Colder weather could also put a damper on the numbers venturing into Europe.

More than 260,000 people have passed through Croatia since September 15, when Hungary closed its border with Serbia and the tide streaming towards rich EU nations turned west to Croatia, EU’s newest member.

Croatia holds its own parliamentary vote on November 8. Milanovic’s leftist government faces a challenge from conservatives, who have criticised its handling of the refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, Slovenia’s foreign minister has hinted that the small country may erect a fence along its border with Croatia to stem the influx of tens of thousands of refugees and other migrants.

Karl Erjavec said some 12,000-13,000 migrants have been arriving daily since Hungary built a fence on the border with Croatia.

Around 84,000 people have crossed into Slovenia from Croatia since October 16.

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