Mahmoud Khelife with his wife and children in Athens, Greece
Last September, the EU announced that it would relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other countries in the EU over the following two years.
But just 272 people have been relocated in the past four months.
Further to this, journalist Andrew Connelly, currently in Athens, Greece, writes:
Austria has suspended its participation in the relocation scheme, hardliners Hungary and Slovakia are challenging the numbers they are supposed to receive in court, and Denmark and the UK opted out from the beginning. Overwhelmed Sweden has reversed its involvement, asking to be a sending rather than a receiving country.
Refugees themselves have been ambivalent about the scheme or simply don’t know about it. Only six nationalities are eligible: Syrians, Iraqis, Eritreans, Yemenis, Bahrainis, and Swazis – based on the high percentage of asylum seekers from those countries who receive refugee status in the EU. Afghans, who represented around 20 percent of Europe’s refugee arrivals in 2015, are notably absent from the list as their likelihood of getting refugee status is well below the 75-percent threshold required for the programme.
[An Iraqi-Kurdish journalist and former producer for Sky News Arabic who fled Iraq] Aral Kakl says those who do qualify for relocation often wait for weeks, only to be told they will be sent to, for example, Cyprus or Bulgaria – countries they know nothing about. Many subsequently opt to leave the hotel and make their own way to a country of their choice.
Mahmoud Khelife – a 53-year-old electrical engineer from Aleppo – and his wife have three teenage children who all have severe learning difficulties. Abdul Malik, 16, Aya, 18, and Mohammed, 19, bounce around the confines of the family’s hotel room. After 47 days, they are still waiting to be accepted by a country for relocation.
“My dream is to go to Ireland,” says Khelife. “I hear the doctors are good there, and they speak English. But no problem – I just need an answer from any country soon. I’m an old man. It doesn’t matter about me. It’s all about my children. Where will they go? They need special treatment.”
Pic: Nicola Zolin
Earlier: Sex Crimes And Refugees