EC slams Italy on migrant repatriations

But Avramopoulos says Rome needn't worry about proceedings

(ANSA) - Brussels, February 10 - The European Commission criticised several aspects of Italy's handling of the waves of asylum seekers to arrive on its shores in a report on Wednesday.
    It said Rome's efforts to repatriate asylum seekers whose requests had been rejected were not good enough and complained that the programme to resettle asylum seekers from Italy was well behind schedule.
    The report comes after months of high tension between Rome and Brussels over several issues, including the refugee crisis, budget flexibility and bank rescues.
    Premier Matteo Renzi has repeatedly complained that the European Union left Italy alone for too long to cope with the Mediterranean migrant crisis and then added insult to injury last year by opening an infringement procedure against Rome for failing to comply with regulations on taking asylum seekers' fingerprints.
    "Italy has carried out over 14,000 forced returns of persons with no right to asylum in 2015, and participated in 11 Frontex joint return flights of rejected asylum seekers from other Member States. This remains insufficient in the context of over 160,000 arrivals in 2015," the report said. "Despite the fact that relocation from Italy started a few weeks earlier than from Greece, it is still far behind the rate necessary to achieve the overall target to relocate 39,600 people in need of international protection in two years. In total, 279 applicants have been relocated to date, with 200 outstanding relocation requests having been sent to other Member States," the report said.
    "Until today, only 15 Member States have made relocation places available with pledges to receive 966 people, while 20 Member States have appointed Liaison Officers to support the process on the ground. "The low implementation rate is largely due to the limited arrivals of eligible migrants on the Italian territory".
    But the EC also some encouraging words for Italy though.
    It said it had written to the 38 Member States to remind them of their obligations on migrant relocations.
    And Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European migration and home affairs commissioner, said Rome had nothing to worry about regarding the fingerprint infringement procedure. "When the next assessment takes place, there won't be any clouds over this issue, which upset the premier," Avramopoulos said.
    "Like all the member States, Italy is working to respect its commitments and so there is no reason to worry". Wednesday report said that Italy's two fully operational asylum-seeker hotspots in Lampedusa and Pozzallo have reached a 100% fingerprinting rate for the most recent disembarkations.
    It also said that the proportion of migrants fingerprinted has risen markedly from 36% in September 2015 to 87% in January 2016. Once fully operational and equipped, the hotspots in Italy are expected to have a fingerprinting capacity of 2,160 migrants per day, which is well above the average arrival numbers for January, the EC said.


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