Saturday 17 August 2019

EU expects three million refugees next year

A girl holds on to a fence at a transit camp housing migrants and refugees in Slavonski Brod. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A girl holds on to a fence at a transit camp housing migrants and refugees in Slavonski Brod. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras: more than 600,000 refugees reached his country this year. Photo: AP

Karla De WInterez in Brussels

The European Union is predicting that three million more refugees could arrive in the 28-nation bloc by the end of next year.

More than 700,000 people have come to Europe seeking sanctuary or jobs so far this year, overwhelming reception centres and border authorities.

EU autumn economic forecasts released yesterday say that, based on current migrant entries and a "technical assumption" about future flows, arrival rates are unlikely to slow before 2017.

The EU's executive Commission said that "overall, an additional three million persons is assumed to arrive in the EU over the forecast period."

The Commission says the refugee crisis has resulted in additional government spending, but that it could have a "small, positive impact" on European economies within a few years.

It came as the UN Refugee Agency issued a winter plan that forecast up to 5,000 migrants arriving daily from Turkey between November and February.

The EU said the real impact on national budgets is difficult to predict, given a lack of complete and reliable data about exactly who is arriving in the bloc and whether they are staying.

Most people are arriving in Europe through Italy and Greece, while Hungary and Austria have been affected by heavy migrant flows. Germany and Sweden are also feeling the impact.

Those nations, among others, want the EU to apply its budget rules with flexibility, taking into account Europe's biggest refugee emergency in well over half a century, and avoid reprimanding member states for excessive spending and deficits. The Commission said that Sweden, which has the highest share of refugees per capita, is likely to feel the economic impact most, perhaps 0.5pc of its gross domestic product this year.

Other hard-hit migrant transit and destination countries are likely to see an impact of 0.2pc of their GDPs in 2015.

While acknowledging the potential short-term impact, the Commission did not clearly state whether it would be flexible on budget policy.

However, a senior EU official said on Wednesday that some flexibility might be allowed "taking into account well-specified costs and for a limited period of time".

As long as any help is "one-off, shortish-term," members of the euro single currency bloc would agree to it, he said.

This week, Libya warned it could flood Europe with migrants if the EU does not recognise its new self-declared government.

Officials say they could hire boats to send large numbers of African migrants across the Mediterranean, massively adding to the numbers already reaching Europe's borders. The warning was made by a spokesman for the National Salvation Government of Libya's General National Congress in an interview in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The Congress took control of Tripoli last year after fighting against forces loyal to the internationally recognised House of Representatives government, and is not recognised by the EU as Libya's legitimate government.

A fortnight ago, both factions also rejected the terms of a UN-brokered peace deal.

Yesterday a Greek patrol boat rescued 78 people on a wooden boat that ran aground off the eastern Aegean island of Kos after sailing from nearby Turkey.

The boat hit sandy shallows near the northern coast of Kos, and those on board were picked up by a coast guard vessel and transported to the island's harbour.

No injuries were reported among the passengers.

A further 293 people were rescued from five inflatable dinghies and a wooden boat overnight and yesterday morning near Lesbos, the island where the majority of refugee arrivals occur.

In a separate incident, the coast guard arrested two suspected smugglers heading back towards Turkey from Lesbos in an inflatable dinghy.

More than 600,000 people have reached Greece so far this year, with hundreds dying when their overloaded boats have sunk or capsized during the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey.

Meanwhile, Greek police said they came under fire on the country's north-eastern border with Turkey during the arrest of two suspected migrant-smugglers who had just ferried 22 people across the Evros river that runs along the border.

Irish Independent

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