Refugee crisis

Italy sends 100 refugees to France and Spain

Italy sends 100 refugees to France and Spain
An Eritrean refugee waves goodbye as he leaves for Sweden on October 9th. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Italy will send 100 refugees to France and Spain this week under the European Union scheme aimed at easing the burden of the migration crisis on frontline countries.

Marco Morcone, the official in charge of implementing national immigration policy, told Reuters that 100 people would leave at the beginning of this week for France, Spain and “maybe Sweden”, while adding that offers from other countries to take people in have been limited.

The bitterly contested plan has lagged, with only 86 refugees leaving Italy for Sweden and Finland in October. Under the agreement devised in September, 80 refugees were supposed to leave Italy each day as part of a plan that would see 40,000 relocated over two years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered Italy and Greece to urgently set up so-called ‘hotspots’ to swiftly process asylum requests, arguing that the redistribution plan depended on it.

Four centres will be operational by the end of November and two more by the end of the year, Morcone told Reuters.

Although nine EU countries had volunteered to take in 854 people from Italy, according to the European Commission, Morcone said that Italy had only received offers for 350.

When the plan kicked off in early October, 19 Eritreans, bound for Sweden, were waved off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano and EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. Alfano hailed the day as “an important one for the EU”.

Almost 140,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, a nine percent decline on last year.