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No takers for 8,000 refugees in the EU

July 21, 2015

EU interior ministers have agreed to relocate 32,000 migrants across member states. However, the fate of at least 8,000 asylum seekers' still hang in the balance as the bloc struggles to find a common policy.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Koller

EU interior ministers have managed to agree on relocating more than 32,000 refugees located in Greece and Italy to states across the 28-member bloc. But the fate of 8,000 migrants was still uncertain after talks in Brussels on Monday.

"We have a solution for relocation this year. For next year we are not yet exactly there, we will talk about this in October or November," said Emily Haber, secretary of state in Germany's Interior Ministry, after the talks.

In June, EU leaders struck a deal on distributing 40,000 migrants coming from Eritrea and Syria among member states. At Monday's meeting, Germany committed to taking in 10,500 refugees. Non-EU countries Switzerland and Norway agreed to take in 519 and 3,500 people, respectively. Another 22,504 migrants living in camps outside the EU were being relocated within the bloc.

However, there were still around 8,000 migrants who could not be settled.

"Figures are sometimes encouraging, sometimes disappointing, sometimes, even, perhaps, embarrassing," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who headed the meeting, told journalists.

Dublin rules need changing

"The fact that member states have failed to reach an agreement on the relocation of just 40,000 refugees after five months is ludicrous," said Gianni Pittella, who heads the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament. "The amount of time and political energy that is being wasted on this issue is frankly farcical."

France and Germany agreed to take in around 21,000 asylum seekers earlier this year, but countries like Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and the Baltic states have been reluctant to house immigrants.

Speaking in a TV interview on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a fairer distribution of refugees. "The ongoing talks are not that bad," Merkel said. However the Dublin agreement for asylum seekers was not relevant to current reality any longer, she added.

The Dublin agreement states that refugees need to apply for asylum in their first point of entry in the European Union. Many EU member states, especially those on migrant routes in the south, have been under pressure following a refugee surge and are clamoring for help.

Nearly 1,900 refugees have died so far this year while crossing the stretch over the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. So far in 2015, more than 150,000 people have landed on Greece and Italy's shores seeking refuge from conflicts and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East, according to data from the International Organization for Migration.

mg/cmk (dpa, Reuters, AP)