European Union threatens members with legal action over refugees

The slow acceptance rate has left tens of thousands of people living in unsanitary and overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy, prompting the European Commission to admonish EU capitals for failing to deliver on their promises.

The Commission said member states should consider longer periods of detention of up to 18 months, although Avramopoulos added that it should only be an option in cases where "migrants are not cooperating" or "there is risk of absconding".

Migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the measure was "in full compliance" with human rights laws and it would "not only take pressure off the asylum systems in member states and ensure appropriate capacity to protect those who are genuinely in need of protection, it will also be a strong signal against taking unsafe irregular journeys to the European Union". Other Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia, are only doing so on a limited basis, the commission said.

Hungary, Austria and Poland are still refusing to participate in the resettlement plan, due to end in September.

"There are no more excuses for the member-states not to deliver", he said, insisting that "it is possible and feasible to relocate all those who are eligible from Italy and Greece by September". "It entirely depends on the political will and perseverance of member states to make it happen".

"Responsibility can not be fairly shared without solidarity".

The EU on Thursday (Mar 2) stepped up warnings that countries could be punished if they fail to share the burden of mainly Syrian refugees stranded in Greece and Italy.

According to a commission statement, member states have "provided safe and legal pathways to 14,422 persons so far, over half of the agreed 22,504 under the European Union resettlement scheme".

In February, EU vice president Frans Timmermans said the Commission was for the first time considering penalties for states that break the rules.

Meanwhile, the deal signed in March 2016 between Turkey and the European Union to stem the flow of migrants into Europe is, so far, bearing results as the rate of daily arrivals on Greek islands has dropped significantly to about 43 per day, compared to as many as 10,000 on one day at the height of the influx in October 2015. At the height of the refugee crisis in October 2015, daily crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands reached a staggering 10,000 in a single day.

  • Leroy Wright