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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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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.