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European Union: Adoption of Decision to Relocate Asylum Seekers

(Sept. 25, 2015) On September 22, 2015, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted a proposal, introduced by the European Commission on September 9, 2015, in response to the unprecedented influx of migrants who have sought refuge in the European Union during the last six months and in order to improve the situation of those EU Member States, such as Greece and Italy, that have been most affected. (Council of the European Union, Justice and Home Affairs Council, 22/09/2015: Main Results (Sept. 22, 2015).) The Commission’s proposal to relocate 120,000 people had been strongly opposed by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. Poland initially was against it, but finally endorsed the decision. In the initial proposal, the Commission had also included Hungary as a third country to benefit from the relocation proposal by relocating 54,000 people in need of international protection; however, Hungary refused to participate. (Hungary Rejects EU Offer to Take Up Refugees, EU OBSERVER (Oct. 10, 2015).)

The decision was initially adopted on September 17, 2015, by the European Parliament, with no amendments. (MEPS Give Go-Ahead to Relocate an Additional 120,000 Asylum Seekers in the EU, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEWS.)

The relocation plan is temporary and will apply to those who have already been in Italy and Greece during the previous six months and to those who arrive in the two months following the entry into force of the decision. The 120,000 persons who would be relocated are in addition to the 40,000 for whom relocation was already proposed in May, for a total number of 160,000. The decision provides that 66,000 persons will be relocated from Italy and Greece (15,600 from Italy and 50,400 from Greece). The remaining 54 000 persons will be relocated from Italy and Greece in the same proportion one year after the entry into force of the decision. (Justice and Home Affairs Council, 22/09/2015: Main Results, supra.)

The relocation would be carried out pursuant to a mandatory distribution scheme based on the following proportional criteria: 40% on the size of the jurisdiction’s population, 40% on GDP, 10% on past acceptance of asylum applications, and 10% on unemployment rate. Two EU Members, Denmark and the United Kingdom, are not participating in this decision; Ireland has expressed its intention to participate. (Id.)