Sweden first to take refugees under EU plan

Tomorrow, Sweden becomes the first country to take refugees under the EU plan to relieve pressure on Greece and Italy, but it will be some time before Ireland can do so, the Department of Justice says.

Today, justice ministers, including Frances Fitzgerald, will discuss plans to send back refugees to their home country who do not qualify for asylum, as well as considering help to Turkey to maintain 2.5m mostly Syrians to remain in camps there.

The need to set up emergency reception and orientation centres to take the 600 people to which Ireland has committed over the next two years will take time.

“All options including the use of state-owned property and privately-owned facilities in respect of emergency reception and orientation centres are being considered,” the department said.

Irish officials have attended two meetings in Rome of liaison officers from member states organised by the EU Commission on how the relocation scheme will function.

The department said people will be selected “with the assistance of Irish liaison officers”.

The European Commission has been asked to revise the current returns agreement and the draft conclusions of today’s justice meeting says that of the half a million migrants ordered to leave the EU annually because they do not qualify for asylum, just 40% or 200,000 are returned to their home country.

Member states have set aside about €800m to pay for returns and are expected to act together and use the EU’s border agency, Frontex, for returns.

The document says that the gap in returns is partly because the EU has readmission agreements with just 17 countries from which migrants come although the EU agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific states says they will take back their citizens without further formalities.

It also suggests issuing failed asylum seekers with an ‘EU laissez-passer’ document, a type of one-way-one-use-only passport to speed returns.

Green group migration spokesperson in the European Parliament, Ska Keller, was critical of proposals she says would see Syrian refugees who came from these refugee camps being returned there.

“By designating refugee camps as safe third countries, the EU is looking to wash its hands of its responsibility for dealing with these asylum seekers.

“This would be a scandal and risks dismantling EU asylum law,” she said.


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