By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
A European Commission report on Wednesday said “further efforts” were needed by member states to relocate refugees and asylum seekers across the bloc.
The progress report also said the number of resettlements from Turkey under the EU-Turkey Statement continued to increase.
However, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, speaking to reporters in Brussels, criticized the bloc for only admitting around 12,000 Syrians from the 160,000 that was promised.
"We might start an infraction procedure…. and we will certainly consider that," Timmermans said, adding it would be "highly unfair" to not share the burden of Greece and Italy, the two EU countries that receive the most irregular migration.
The Greek Asylum Service also later hit out at some relocation practices, claiming some EU states were refusing to accept underage wives and their families.
Earlier, the European Commission adopted the ninth progress report on the EU's emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, assessing actions taken since Dec. 8, 2016.
Wednesday’s report said almost 3,100 Syrians had been resettled from Turkey to the EU, including 487 since two months ago.
Research claimed that, in the past two months, EU member states continued to "increase their efforts on resettlement", offering legal and safe pathways to 13,968 people so far.
According to the report, the number of relocations currently stands at 11,966.
"However, further efforts are still needed from member states to sustain the progress made and reach the monthly targets set by the commission of 1,000 relocations from Italy and 2,000 from Greece," it added.
- Turkey ‘delivering on its promise’
The report said the number of resettlements from Turkey under the EU-Turkey Statement continued to increase.
"Since 4 April 2016, 3,098 Syrians have been resettled from Turkey to the EU, including 487 since the previous report.
"The Turkish authorities are delivering on their promise to step up efforts to provide larger lists of resettlement candidates," the document said.
According to the EU-Turkey refugee agreement, a total of 72,000 refugees should be resettled to the EU from Turkey.
The EU Turkey Statement of March 18, 2016, provides that for every Syrian person being returned from Turkey from the Greek islands, another will be resettled from Turkey to the EU.
This principle was applied as of April 4, 2016. Priority is given to migrants who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EU irregularly.
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos was quoted as saying: “Relocating all those eligible in Italy and Greece is possible but it takes political will, commitment and perseverance of all member states to make it happen."
Meanwhile, EU states were accused of refusing to accept underage wives and their families as part of the relocation program, said the Greek Asylum Service.
According to an announcement made by the body’s Relocation Unit, these member states were “not taking into account either that this is not sufficient grounds for refusing relocation… or that relocation is definitely in the best interests of the persons concerned”.
Data published by the organization show that from the beginning of the relocation program until Jan. 20 more than 500 unaccompanied minors had been registered to participate, but only 350 had been accepted for relocation.
The group went on to say the relocation process was also too time consuming.
*Idyli Tsakiri in Athens contributed to this report