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Migration and Home Affairs

Relocation: EU solidarity in practice

Relocation is an example of concrete solidarity between EU countries in the area of migration management. Through relocations

  • asylum applicants
  • beneficiaries of international protection

are transferred from their current host European country, normally their first country of entry into the EU, to another European country. If an applicant for asylum is relocated, the new host country takes over the examination of their asylum application.

Through such relocations, EU countries help each other to alleviate the pressure on local reception and asylum systems of countries who manage the EU’s external borders, especially in the event of search and rescue operations or high migratory pressure. Relocation puts core priorities of EU’s migration policy into action - caring for vulnerable people and promoting their well-being.

In 2015, the EU launched an emergency relocation programmeto reduce the burden on Italy and Greece, which, at that time, experienced a high number of migrant arrivals across the Mediterranean Sea. Under this emergency programme, 34 700 persons have been relocated from Italy and Greece to other European countries, including Norway and to Switzerland, with the support of EU agencies and EU funding.

Relocation in the Central Mediterranean

After the first EU emergency programme ended in 2017, in 2018, some EU countries started making pledges for voluntary relocation of migrants rescued at sea in the Central Mediterranean. This was done under the coordination of the Commission, following requests made by Italy and Malta.

A temporary relocation mechanism for these voluntary relocations in the context of Search and Rescue Operations in the Central Mediterranean was later included in the so-calledMalta Declaration endorsed by Italy, Germany, France and Malta in September 2019.

In the framework of these voluntary relocation exercises coordinated by the European Commission since 2018, about 3 000 persons have been relocated from Italy and Malta to other European countries, with the operational support of  EU agencies and the Commission, as well as targeted EU funding provided under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Voluntary relocations from Greece

In 2020, the European Commission presented an Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece. Under this plan, following the request of the Greek government, the European Commission proposed to set up a voluntary relocation scheme for unaccompanied minors, vulnerable asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protectionfrom Greece to other European countries.

A group of unaccompanied minors awaiting their relocation flight
Unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan and Syria boarding their relocation flight from Greece to Germany

Since April 2020, 16 countries (13 EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) participate in the relocation scheme from Greece by receiving unaccompanied minors, vulnerable asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection. The scheme is managed by the Greek authorities in cooperation with the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) and international organisations (IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF).

The European Commission is coordinating and facilitating the implementation of the relocation scheme. It is also providing EU funding for the preparatory steps of the relocation process in Greece, as well as for the transfer costs to the participating countries and organising partners. The European Commission granted more than €35 million under the 2014-2020 Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) for the implementation of the voluntary relocation scheme.

In the framework of the voluntary relocation exercise coordinated by the European Commission since 2020 until October 2022, more than 5 000 people have been relocated from Greece to other European countries.

Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism (VSM)

In June 2022, 21 European countries signed the Declaration on Solidarity. It established the set-up of the Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism (VSM) that aims “to provide a concrete response to the migratory difficulties of the Mediterranean Member States” through relocation of asylum seekers and refugees or through financial contributions.

Relocation: EU solidarity in practice
Preparations for boarding the relocation flight from Italy to Germany under the Voluntary Relocation Mechanism

Following the Declaration, the European Commission coordinates the relocation processes under VSM in close collaboration with participant countries and with the operational support of EU Agencies.

To facilitate smooth implementation, the European Commission:

  • provides EU funding
  • holds regular meetings with participant countries and partners in the framework of the Solidarity Platform
  • coordinates the definition of operating procedures and monitors their implementation

The EUAA plays a key role in the relocation process by providing additional operational support to competent authorities of European countries.

The VSM is a gradual step towards the proposed Pact on Migration and Asylum, including the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation, which foresees a permanent relocation mechanism among EU countries. As such, the VSM will provide useful lessons for the proposed permanent relocation mechanism.

The first relocation transfers under the VSM started in August 2022.