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Refugee resettlement

Sabrina Pabst / cmkJune 6, 2014

The numbers are dramatic: In the first five months of 2014 Italy has received 35,000 people - more than all of last year. The EU Commission has yet to find a way for refugees to be distributed equally.

Libyans arrive in Italy
Image: Mauro Seminara/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday (6.06.2014), Italian authorities announced they had rescued 2,500 refugees attempting to reach European shores on a flotilla of 17 boats.

The majority will likely be Eritrieans, Syrians and sub-Saharan Africans who began their Mediterranean journey from Libya.

In addition to refugees escaping misery and poverty in their homeland, the majority of refugees coming to Europe these days are fleeing persecution and civil war. According to the Geneva Refugee Convention, they have the right to asylum. But in reality, the support for these people is inadequate in many countries, said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

She said that EU member states needed to take in more people from refugee camps than they had up to this point.

Resettlement incentives

Monika Hohlmeier
Hohlmeier: "Germany could take in more refugees"Image: picture-alliance/dpa

In this regard, Malmstrom was referring to a resettlement program organized by various refugee organizations. With incentive payments of 6,000 euros (about $8,200) for the reception and integration of each resettled refugee, Brussels has been trying for some time to persuade EU members to accept more refugees - with limited success. Relief is urgently needed at Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

"The resettlement program is a useful policy that has been adopted by all member states," said Monika Hohlmeier, a recently re-elected German member of the European Parliament, in an interview with DW. "Refugees who are not able to return home will be taken up within the EU so that they can start a new life there."

Hohlmeier believes the incentive payments, a carrot meant to encourage member states and help with initial costs, are a reasonable amount.

'Europe has failed spectacularly'

The first Syrian refugees to come through the resettlement program have already arrived in Sweden and Germany. Through that program, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is expecting to arrange around 10,000 refugee relocations, with more to follow.

So far, however, it's been mainly individual EU states that have stepped in. "This is connected to the fact that in countries like Italy or Greece, there is no established system for asylum seekers," explained Hohlmeier.

Syrian refugees in makeshift camps in Jordan
Refugees face inhuman conditions in camps in Turkey, Jordan (pictured) and LebanonImage: Reuters

"Europe has failed spectacularly when it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis," said Günter Burkhardt, head of the human rights organization Pro Asyl. "We have a European policy of closed borders. The appeal of the EU Commission is correct, in principle, but domestic political interests are much too dominant."

More than half of all EU countries have yet to welcome Syrian refugees, Burkhardt pointed out. "Whether now the 6,000 euros per resettled refugee is enough to get EU members to rethink their approach is questionable," he said.

With Syrian refugees numbering in the millions, Hohlmeier also doesn't think that a resettlement program is a permanent solution. "If a few thousand refugees are resettled in Germany," said EU parliamentarian Hohlmeier, "the country would be able to bear it. Many of them are qualified and willing to contribute."

But the goal should be to enable a return, she added, pointing out that most people want to return home as soon as possible.e a return, she added, pointing out that most people want to return home as soon as possible.