Europe needs to take more decisive action to assist Syrian refugees, urged the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at a meeting of the member states' home affairs ministers, in Dublin on 17 January. The message was echoed by NGOs. The Irish EU Presidency also encouraged the home affairs ministers to do more.
Antonio Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, asked the 27 to take in 500 refugees as a matter of urgency, including Palestinians who lived in Syria and who will never be able to return to their country. Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom had not received any commitments as this issue of Europolitics social went to press, but was hopeful.
In response to the UNHCR's calls for solidarity, the EU states agreed to set up a regional aid programme for the countries that take in large numbers of refugees (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and North African countries). But the actions being developed are taking a long time to deliver on location. In early December, the UNHCR wrote to the EU Council to ask it to make more of an effort to protect refugees, noting that only a "moderate" number of Syrian refugees had been admitted to EU countries.
"Syrians applying for asylum in the European Union are faced with a protection lottery depending on the country they reach," said Judith Sunderland, researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The EU has so far received some 25,000 asylum applications, with 93% of applicants reported to have been accepted with different degrees of protection. Most - 15,000 - have found refuge in Germany and Sweden. Certain European countries reject 50% of the applicants, however. In Greece, to which nearly 10,000 Syrians have fled since 2011, only six have been granted a certain form of protection, according to Human Rights Watch. The NGO claims that in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece, Syrians are detained in immigration centres for periods ranging from days to months. While most EU states have frozen expulsions of Syrians, Greece has deported Syrian nationals and Britain has tried to do the same. Syrians are also transferred between EU countries under the Dublin...