An EU scheme to relocate asylum seekers from overstretched Italy and Greece could grind to a halt just two weeks after it began if member states fail to meet their obligations, an EU source said Tuesday.
The source said Italy is due within days to fly around 100 asylum seekers to other cities in the bloc, part of a scheme that requires most of the 28 member states to admit a share of 160,000 refugees from the two Mediterranean nations over two years.
So far only 19 Eritrean asylum seekers, who were flown from Italy to Sweden on October 9, have been relocated under the plan adopted in Brussels last month over the opposition of several eastern European countries.
"With the relocation of around 100 people this week from Italy the available places will be almost exhausted while the number of applicants is increasing," the source said on condition of anonymity.
"There will be a bottleneck if member states don't pledge places like they said they would," the source added.
The source said only Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Sweden have so far offered immediate places for asylum seekers.
The remaining member states are legally required to take their quotas of the 160,000 refugees but Britain has opted out of the plan, as it is able to do under the EU's Treaty.
Ireland, which also has an opt-out, has opted in and said it will take 4,000.
Denmark, which is excluded from migration issues under the EU Treaty, has said it will take 1,000.
Not only is the EU asking for member states to provide more places, it is also urging them to pledge much more money to help ease Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.
Since an emergency EU summit on September 23, member states have disbursed around 474 million euros ($538 million) out of total pledges of about 2.8 billion euros.
Two UN officials coordinating efforts to help the migrants in the Balkans, the main route into Europe from the Middle East and beyond, said the EU effort was being hampered by indecision.
UN refugee coordinator in Serbia, Irena Vojackova-Sollorano told AFP it was "rather frustrating for us to watch."
"We are dealing with these situations all over the world in a rather efficient way and in really disastrous contexts ... here we don't have a disastrous context but we have a disastrous non-decision situation," Vojackova-Sollorano said.
She and her UN colleague in Macedonia Louise Vinton also warned there was no sign the influx of migrants was slowing down, as many expected with the approach of winter.