Within the next year, half of the 60,000-plus refugees stuck at reception facilities in Greece could gain asylum in the European Union in 2017, the European Commission said in a report released Wednesday.
“With the increased capacity of the Greek Asylum Service, and if member mtates step up their efforts, it should notably be possible to relocate the remaining relocation candidates present in Greece (around 30,000) within the next year,” the commission said.
Still, recent relocation progress casts a shadow of doubt over the likelihood that the EU’s expectations are realistic. About 1,200 refugees were relocated in September — the highest number for any month so far, according to the report. And over the past year, just over 12,000 refugees applying for asylum were granted relocation, according to the report.
In another sign the crisis is far from dying down, the commission said five EU states using strict temporary border measures would be allowed to continue these controls. The six-month measures, which Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Norway have used to stymie the flow of migrants into their territories, are set to expire Nov. 12. The commission said Wednesday's decision did not mean the five countries would necessarily be permitted to extend the border controls past the expiration date.
The report also cited an abrupt decrease in the number of migrants “crossing irregularly or losing their lives” in the Aegean Sea, with an average of 85 people arriving daily since June, compared to 1,700 per day between mid-February and mid-March, and 7,000 daily in October of last year.
The commission attributed the decline to the EU-Turkey resolution in March that sought to stem the number of migrants landing in the Greek islands by sending those ineligible for asylum in the EU to Turkey, preventing illegal migration by sea or land and setting aside 3 billion euros (about $3.36 billion) for Turkey’s humanitarian refugee program.
Turkey already hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, at 2.5 million asylum seekers, likely because it borders the country where the lion share of refugees come from. Syria, with 4.9 million refugees, has nearly twice the number of Afghanistan, according to June data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.