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#Greece threatened by #Schengen quarantine and #Visa-free loss

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After the EE official warning to Greece for being pushed out of Schengen zone, the US Secretary of State John Kerry is said to have issued warning to Greece among four other European countries to clamp down on the fake passport trade or lose visa-free ESTA travel to America.

John Kerry issued warnings to Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and Greece and gaven the five nations a deadline of February 1 to fix a ‘crucial loophole’, while he is said be most worried about Greece and Italy, the dailymail writes today.

Homeland Security’s Jen Johnson will report their progress to President Obama next week.

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The US warnings come some hours after the EU governments warning to Greece that there would need to be unprecedented action against Greece if it failed to start playing by the Schengen rules.

A Wednesday’s warning from the commission, according to which Athens would be given three months to take “remedial action” to safeguard its place in the Schengen system,  confirmed that.

The Germans, as well as several other EU countries taking in large numbers of migrants, have long been furious with the Greeks for allegedly simply waving the new arrivals through without registration and ID checks and setting them on the Balkan route towards the Central and North European countries,mainly Germany ad Austria .

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The Financial Times, Tuesday January 26 2016

In recent days, Hungary’s hardline prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has called for Greece to be walled off from the rest of Europe – or at least from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the next step along the migration trail towards Germany.

Orbán wants the EU to expand an existing fence around the Greek border town of Idomeni along the entire length of the Greece-FYROM border, just as Hungary walled off its own border in September.

 

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What Greece is been accused of

“There is no effective identification and registration of irregular migrants,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, a commission vice-president.

“Fingerprints are not being entered systematically into the system, travel documents are not being systematically checked for authenticity or against crucial security databases.”

Dombrovskis said that a secret EU mission to Greece in November had concluded that Athens was avoiding the Schengen rules on several fronts.

On the same moment, US concerns were raised to peak recently, after the passport of ‘Ahmad Almohammad’ was found at the Paris Stade de France terror attack.

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Finger print analysis of the bomber’s remains revealed the man, who had falsely declared himself to be a Syrian named Ahmad Almohammad, 25, had entered Greece as a refugee on October 3. He was among 198 migrants who landed on the island of Leros after crossing the Aegean from Turkey on a raft. He was processed as a refugee by the Greek authorities who interview more than 1,000 migrants and refugees a day to establish their real identities and nationalities.

the EU Warning in draft

The warning from the EU commission came in the form of a draft report on Greece’s performance, but has to be endorsed by a qualified majority of EU governments. The commission would then give Athens three months to take “remedial action” to safeguard its place in the Schengen system.

At the same time EU governments, with the commission’s support, are acting to increase border controls at Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia border with northern Greece, which would end up to many thousands of refugees being kettled in Greece.

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 Athens’ answer

“The solution passes through Turkey, and also through the better cooperation of European Partners on the epimerization of the burden”,

said Alexis Tsipras on Thursday from Israel where he is for official visit .

Athens responded since the first moments robustly to the EU criticism, claiming that the draft evaluation report had been conducted at a time when the situation on the ground was different to the one prevailing two and a half months later.

The Greek foreign ministry released statistics on Wednesday showing that 90% of the new arrivals last year were from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, most of whom would routinely qualify for refugee status, but on the contrary, the commission presented data this week that 60% of those entering the EU currently were “economic migrants” who were not fleeing war and not in need of protection and should be deported, wrote the Irish Times .

Greece straightly  blamed Turkey’s failure to honour the deal it struck with the EU in November.

the Europe’s No Help

Greek Ministers have emphatically and angrily noted to their European counterparts that

Europe  has shortchanged Greece by providing smaller-than-promised numbers of everything, from cots and fingerprinting machines to border guards. “

as  Ioannis Mouzalas  said on Monday Jan 25 to the international and Greek press after the EU meeting Amsterdam

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Frans Timmermans First Vice-President of the European Commission, January 13, 2016

“Since May Greece has persistently been asking for technical, technological and staffing help, and what it has received from Europe is far less than what was asked for,” Greek Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis had openly warned, since December 5 2015, talking to the  told The Associated Press in an interview.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, last week,  during his meeting with his German counterpart Steinmeier said that Frontex should deploy about 100 boats in the narrow stretch of water separating Greece from Turkey, the main launching pad for 850,000 refugees and migrants who reached Greece’s shores last year.

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Diplomacy doubts the wall solution

A supporter of Greece’s proposal

Gerald Knaus, a former diplomat and the chairman of the European Stability Initiative, an influential European think tank said to the Guardian:

“In the end, people will still get through. Anyone already in Greece will not turn back to Turkey.”

It is impossible, Knaus points out, to stop people reaching the Greek islands from Turkey. Once in Greece, it will also be hard to contain them – and even if it were possible, Greece does not have the resources to care for them.

The only way out is to persuade Turkey to take back asylum seekers who reach Greece by boat, and as a quid pro quo, for Germany to formally resettle hundreds of thousands of refugees directly from Turkey. This would not prevent refugees from reaching Europe. But it would allow the continent to manage their arrivals better, decide who comes and when, and know who they are before they arrive.

“I’m convinced that a lot of people just don’t understand the basic issues,” Knaus said. “Whatever they say, you can’t close the Aegean border.”

TRANSIT 4 HOPE

 

 

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400.000 #refugees’ capacity camp demanded in #Athens by #EU, @imouzalas revealed

 

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Belgium’s interior minister has suggested Greece build a camp in Athens to accommodate up to 400,000 migrants, Greece’s minister of immigration policy @mouzalas told national media Tuesday.

“The Belgian minister raised the issue of camps for 300,000 to 400,000 migrants in Athens,”

Ioannis Mouzalas told Greece’s Skai TV broadcaster.

The EU interior and justice ministers met in Amsterdam on Monday, where they attempted to find institutional solutions to the migrant crisis that saw over a million people arrive in Europe last year.

EU’s “big and unfair blame game against Greece is despicable”,

Greek alternate minister Yiannis Mouzalas told to reporters after the meeting of European Union interior ministers in Amsterdam on Monday.

At the EU Ministers’ meeting the Greek Minister had asked for 100 new Frontex vessels, and 1000 more Frontex personnel to assist Greece to repatriation of those migrants denied to asylum, to Turkey,  shouting angrily to the EU miniters “We need Frontex in Greece!”

Europe, Ioannis Mouzalas  said on Monday Jan 25, later to the international and Greek reporters, has shortchanged Greece by providing smaller-than-promised numbers of everything from cots and fingerprinting machines to border guards.

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“It’s a myth that the Greek-Turkish border can’t be protected,” said Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner of Austria, which last week set an upper limit on new arrivals. Mikl-Leitner said the Greek navy has “sufficient capacity” to keep refugees out.

Nikos Toskas, a deputy interior minister, said it’s hard to stop some refugee-laden boats “except via sinking or shooting”, emphasising that

‘Cemetery of Souls’: Greece Hits Out at Plans to Exclude It From Schengen, Sputnik news article title wrote

The continent-wide name-calling harked back to the worst days of the debt crisis when Greece’s membership in the euro zone was imperiled. Germany and Austria pressured Greece to seal off its Aegean Sea border with Turkey, warning that the unchecked march of refugees from the Middle East would lead to longer-lasting passport controls at internal borders in western Europe,Bloomberg Business wrote

Mouzalas said Greece, as a frontline country that receives most of the new arrivals, was prepared to open new registration centers in early March.

The European Commission sought to tamp down speculation that it might be bolstering Macedonia’s border to bar Greece from the EU’s passport-free travel area known as the Schengen zone. “We have never discussed a Schengen suspension or an exclusion of a Schengen member,” Natasha Bertaud, a commission spokeswoman, said on Monday.

(sources: Sputnik, New Europe, Bloomberg Business )

 

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Refugees in thousands arriving in Athens from Lesvos, and the other Aegean islands, September 2015

 

 

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“Gigantic Effort” of Lesvos on #refugeescrisis should be matched by EU countires. UNHCR chief António Guterres

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UNHCR chief António Guterres witnessed the improved humanitarian response mounted by Greek local authorities and civil society while lamenting the continued lack of a large-scale and effective European response.

 

UNHCR has deployed an emergency team to Greece and now has some 120 staff in the country to support the government in its effort to address the continuing crisis. The island of Lesbos, with a population of 95,000 people, has received over 400.000 people in nine months 160,000 in September, and 15.000 in the last weekend alone.

Greece’s first so-called migrant hotspot on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos started operating last week .Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said on Saturday, adding that another four screening centers will follow on other islands.

He made the announcement during a press conference in Athens to present EU policy on migration and refugee relocation, along with European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.

Mouzalas said it was key that the EU “applies the same criteria for all countries.”

In his comments, Avramopoulos said that a total of 160,000 refugees will be distributed among the bloc’s non-border nations. He said guest countries would be decided by experts at EU-staffed hotspots, and not the refugees.

“No country can shoulder this burden on its own. Europe will offer money and know-how,” said Asselborn.

The EU has so far spent 33 million euros on dealing with the migration crisis, officials said.

Assessing conditions on the Greek island of Lesbos, the main landing spot for tens of thousands of people taking smuggler boats from the nearby Turkish coast, Guterres said

 “It is amazing that on a small island, you do respond, and you do manage this crisis, whereas in a big Europe with half a billion people, they are finding it so difficult to respond,”

Guterres told Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos and other Greek officials.

“We are always saying this crisis is manageable at the European level, but to be manageable, it needs to be much better managed.”

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Without a Europe-wide approach and an effective strategy in dealing with the influx, Guterres warned, criminal networks would continue to thrive. “When states are not able to organize the orderly movement of refugees, smugglers take charge, exploiting people further and adding to their suffering,” he added.

Describing his island as frontline, Mayor Galinos said:

“the main issue is not the numbers, but the lack of a European policy to respond.”

Nevertheless, he said, Greeks would continue to do whatever they could to address the crisis and combat smugglers, “who not only exploit the people, but who put their lives at continuous risk.”

“Above all, we are all human beings,” the Mayor added. “We must all recognize the position of these people because we might all find ourselves in this situation one day.”

 

What is a hotspot according to EU law?

The operational support provided under the Hotspot approach, will concentrate on

  • registration,
  • identification,
  • fingerprinting
  • and debriefing of asylum seekers,
  • as well as return operations.

 

Those claiming asylum will  be

immediately channelled into an asylum procedure

where EASO support teams will help to process asylum applications as quickly as possible.

For those who are not in need of protection,
Frontex will help Member States by coordinating the return of irregular migrants.
Europol and Eurojust will assist the host Member State with
investigations to dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks

We need Frontex in Greece, @imouzalas shout to EU ministers

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Greek Immigration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas has angrily blamed European Union member states for failing to send Athens enough manpower and ships to help it tackle the migrant crisis and for not living up to pledges to relocate migrants, New Europe wrote .

Mouzalas told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting in Amsterdam that sending officers from the EU border protection force known as Frontex to neighbouring Former Yougoslav Republic of Macedonia in an attempt to halt migrants there would be illegal.

It has been suggested that EU border guards would be more effective on the Greek-Macedonian border, but Mouzalas said

sending them there is “not a good idea,” insisting: “We need Frontex in Greece.”

Mouzalas says Greece is doing all it can to protect its sea borders from boatloads of migrants heading from Turkey to nearby Greek islands, but has not been sufficiently helped by fellow EU members.

He says Athens wanted 1,800 Frontex officers, but has got only 800, the international Press wrote.

@NikosKotzias  The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, asked his German counterpart for 100 FRONEX vessels,  and  proposed Fronex to readmit those migrants that are not entitled to asylum, to Turkey, after their identification in Greece .

The minister said Frontex should deploy about 100 boats in the narrow stretch of water separating Greece from Turkey, the main launching pad for 850,000 refugees and migrants who reached Greece’s shores last year.

AP, Reuters, New Europe

 

Out of question the Greece-out-of-Schengen scenario, said @NikosKotzias

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Greece Migrants Border Patrol

Bilateral relations, the refugee issue, the various crisis areas, and Cyprus, were among the issues discussed at the working dinner on January 23 evening in Berlin to the Greek  Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias by his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

In his statements to the Greek and international press  after the meeting, the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Niko Kotzias, excluded once again the possibility of joint patrols of Greek and Turkish coastguard, and proposed Fronex to readmit those migrants that are not entitled to asylum, to Turkey, after their identification in Greece .

Foreign Minister Kotzias openly condemned, taliking to the press, the proposals for exclusion of Greece from Schengen.

Asked to comment on the recent Financial Times article , according to which Brussels and Berlin consider a proposal of Slovenia to strengthen care at the border between Greece and FYROM, which would result in trapping thousands of people…

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Out of question the Greece-out-of-Schengen scenario, said @NikosKotzias

Greece Migrants Border Patrol

Bilateral relations, the refugee issue, the various crisis areas, and Cyprus, were among the issues discussed at the working dinner on January 23 evening in Berlin to the Greek  Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias by his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

In his statements to the Greek and international press  after the meeting, the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Niko Kotzias, excluded once again the possibility of joint patrols of Greek and Turkish coastguard, and proposed Fronex to readmit those migrants that are not entitled to asylum, to Turkey, after their identification in Greece .

Foreign Minister Kotzias openly condemned, taliking to the press, the proposals for exclusion of Greece from Schengen.

Asked to comment on the recent Financial Times article , according to which Brussels and Berlin consider a proposal of Slovenia to strengthen care at the border between Greece and FYROM, which would result in trapping thousands of people in Greece, Mr. Kotzias noted that such a question had never been put from the German side and stressed that

“the Greek Foregn Ministry’s policy is to prevent any wrong thoughts to be translated into policy recommendations.”.

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He added that
“these plans ( proposed by some new in the EE countries)  have not understood how the Schengen works and what is its significance”

and underlined that

“sometimes the new members of the EU have yet to consolidate the Europeanism which is something they should do.”

The Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias after his meeting with his counterpart  in Berlin presented the Greek proposal for Frontex aid in the Aegean waters that Greece is asking for, in accordance with the fact that Greece requested by the European agency 100 vessels to be send to Greece, to carry back to the hotspot islands in Turkey, immigrants will be rejected for asylum.

According to the Greek Minister of Foreign affairs

  • The audit of the refugees flows should be done in Turkey,
  • Frontex  must strengthen its fleet
  • while all newcomers, refugeees and migrants should be identified in the Hotspots in Greece that have to be completed as soon as possible , and also
  • there should soon be an agreement with Ankara refugees to be repatriated should board the vessels of  Frontex and be transported back to Turkey.

In this way, the Greek Foreign Minister estimates, the number of those attempting to cross to Europe will be limited .

As regards to the discussion on  the joint patrols of Greek and Turkish coast guard, Mr. Kotzias explained that this

“would put us automatically to the problems which we already have to solve with Turkey, but not to the refugees problem solving, while the is no reason to confuse the refugee crisis problems with more general Greek-Turkish relations problems “

The role of Frontex Foreign Minister Kotzias underlined,

«has nothing to do neither with the joint patrols or with the Greek-Turkish issues. It is a third, neutral factor for the Turks and could help to the readmission of those who are not entitled to asylum.

This is our proposal, ” the minister said, adding that such action would require about 100 additional ships. The search and the rescue, minister Kotzias clarified , are under the sovereignty of the Greek state.

“The Frontex may facilitate to the readmission of those who are not entitled to asylum.”

The minister said Frontex should deploy about 100 boats in the narrow stretch of water separating Greece from Turkey, the main launching pad for 850,000 refugees and migrants who reached Greece’s shores last year.

Greece has repeatedly called on Frontex to help send back people deemed ineligible for asylum in Europe, such as migrants from Morocco and Pakistan.

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Tsipras, Lagarde agree first program review should not be delayed

Neither Greece, nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want to delay the completion of the country’s first program review, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Fund’s head Christine Lagarde agreed during a meeting in Davos on Thursday.
According to the prime minister’s office, Tsipras and Lagarde agreed that the government and the IMF should have direct communication so that each side has a clear understanding of each other’s position.
The prime minister also briefed Lagarde on the audits conducted by Greek authorities for possible tax evaders who have bank counts abroad, noting it is the first time that there is political will to investigate those cases and not cover them up. Finally, he said the government is hoping to collect a significant part of this money by introducing a legislation of “self-reporting”.

Following the meeting, the IMF issued a press release saying that it stands ready to continue to support Greece in achieving robust economic growth and sustainable public finances through a credible and comprehensive medium-term economic programme, but only if it was granted “significant” debt relief by its European partners.

Earlier, Tsipras said during a panel discussion that solving Europe’s problems required “more Europe”.

“We are doing what we can in order to progress quickly and smoothly with the implementation of the agreement,” he said, and expressed hope that the disagreements and different views that occasionally arose between the three institutions representing the country’s creditors would not be the cause of further delays.

“This is not the time for various ‘exits’, whether these concern ‘Grexit’ or ‘Brexit’, or for divisions, or walls, or differentiations,” the Greek premier continued. “It is a time for more Europe: Common rules, deepening democracy, strengthening solidarity, an increased European budget in order to restrict inequalities, banking union with a European system for guaranteeing deposits,” he added.

According to Tsipras, it was time for Europe to return to its founding principles, which were those of democracy, solidarity and social cohesion.

Addressing issues raised by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said the International Monetary Fund’s presence in the Greek programme was essential and compared asking German lawmakers to sanction its removal to “going into a room full of dynamite with a lit candle”, Tsipras made the following comment:

“I too am no supporter of the view that one should attempt to light a candle in a room full of dynamite. Neither, however, do I have the view that on this account one must constantly be in the dark. The best solution is to remove the dynamite from the room and then light the candle.”

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A studio in #Lesvos by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei @aiww to highlight plight of refugees

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Ai is setting up a studio on #Lesvos, the northern Aegean island, the main port of entry into the European Union for the flood of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

“The border is not in Lesbos, it really [is] in our minds and in our hearts ,” Ai said.

In addition to this stop, the 58-year-old Ai told Associated Press he expected to visit Lesbos several times over the next year, or even beyond, if the crisis persisted beyond 2016. He said about six to 10 of his students in China and Germany would be working at the studio.

Ai praised the people of Lesbos for having a “very good understanding” of the refugees’ plight,their needs and for being “very helpful and very tolerant”, but emphasised they had limited resources to deal with the issue.

Ai reportedly told media that some of the projects will be public works, adding that they will aim especially to honour the lives of refugees who have died.

“I think that good art only comes out from when we have strong beliefs in aesthetics and human dignity. This can never be separated,” he told the Associated Press.

Ai used social media to document his trip to the Greek island

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“As an artist, I have to relate to humanity’s struggles… I never separate these situations from my art,” he said. The artist is as well-known for his clashes with the Chinese authorities as for his work.

He praised the impressive work of several foreign non-governmental organisations, notably in the Netherlands, Norway and Spain. He added that there was a lack of awareness of the situation in Europe and the rest of the world and a willingness to act.

The island has been the main point of entry into the EU for hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past year and the studio would produce several projects with themes related to the refugee crisis from him and his students, Ai told reporters.

Visit our special Pages for #Lesvos Nomination to become the European Culture Capital 2021 by greek2m.org

Follow also the official Mytilene, Lesvos European Culture Capital 2021 on fb