European Union says its migrant resettlement plan is not working

“The situation is getting worse,” Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told EU lawmakers in Brussels. “These schemes have not delivered the expected results,” he added.

In September, the EU unveiled measures that would distribute settlement of  160,000 refugees across member countries to ease the crushing burden on Greece and Italy, where most arrive after fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones. Yet fewer than 300 refugees have been sent to other countries under the plan, EU data show.

More than 1 million migrants entered Europe in 2015, with the vast majority winding up in Germany, which opened its doors to them last year. However, opposition to taking in migrants has grown in Germany and elsewhere in Europe since reports of mass assaults on women by recent migrants at New Year’s Eve gatherings.

Avramopoulos said newcomers to Greece and Italy are still not being processed quickly enough, and countries that signed up with the plan had made just a few thousand spaces available. A deal with Turkey — where 2 million Syrians are marooned — to send refugees directly from the Turkish capital Ankara to EU countries also has stalled.

“Europe will provide protection for those who need it, but those who have no right to be here have to be returned,” Avramopoulos said.

Many of these coming to Europe are seeking better economic opportunities and don’t qualify for protection as refugees under international law. Since September, fewer than 900 have been ejected.

Avramopoulos said that if the situation does not change, the EU’s passport-free travel zone, a fundamental right guaranteed to EU citizens, is at risk of falling apart. If that happens, he said, it would be the “beginning of the end of the European project.”

In Denmark, that parliament will vote this month on whether to seize cash and other assets of migrants that exceed $1,450 to make new arrivals pay for their stays. In Finland, news media reported that a group of anti-immigrant men have started patrolling streets of a town near the border with Sweden to ease fears over the safety of local women.

Authorities in Italy this week arrested an illegal immigrant — a 25-year-old Senegalese man — in connection with the murder of an American woman who was found strangled in her apartment in Florence. His arrest could further stoke fears about the threat posed by recent migrants.

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