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According to the draft Council implementing decision that set the 50 points Recommendation for Greece to address deficiencies identified by the European Commission in the 2015 Schengen evaluation, vacationers on crusie ships or yachts should also be checked on the Aegean islands of Greece, among other measures on refugees identification and relocation proceedures.
Greece’s Urgent to-do List
The draft was leaked by Satewatch, the European civil liberties watchdog.These are some points :
irregular migrants not to be allowed to stay or enter EU countries
Greece should “clearly state in the documents of ‘suspension of removal’ which are provided to the irregular migrants during the registration process, that the document does not give the irregular migrant the right to stay and enter other member states, and include, where necessary, certain obligations aimed at avoiding the risk of absconding”, the paper reads.
illegal immigrants to be returned
The Council also asks Greece to immediately start the procedures for returning illegal immigrants who do not apply for asylum and are not in need of international protection, and rapidly transfer them to Turkey in accordance with the bilateral readmission agreement between Athens and Ankara.
Athens to safeguard surveillance on whole sea border
Athens is also asked to improve sea border surveillance by creating an integrated and effective coastal surveillance system covering the “whole” sea border between Greece and Turkey.
“The surveillance system should provide the possibility to detect all vessels, including small boats that are crossing the sea border from Turkey to Greece; in order to identify, detect and apprehend illegal border crossers, the system should be supported by an offshore element: offshore patrol boats and vessels, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and other means, as well as a sufficient number of land patrols on the island.”
first line border guards on alert
The recommendation also says that Greece should familiarise first line border guards with foreign terrorist fighters risk indicators, as well as consider cooperating with the Turkish border control authorities at the local level “as it exists at the land border with Turkey”.
checks on crusie ships and pleasure yachts
The recommendation provides for checks on cruise ships based on the crew and passenger list, and on pleasure yachts coming from third countries at a border crossing points
Since the end of January 2016, the European civil liberties watchdog Statewatch, had also released confidential documents revealing the European Union plans to criminalize charities and volunteers who help refugees arriving on Greek islands.
The documents revealed that EU interior ministers who met in Amsterdam on January 27, 2016 want to criminalize as “smugglers” charities, local people, volunteers and scores of international humanitarians who have traveled to Greece to help pull drowning refugees from the sea and feed and offer dry clothes as they land on Greek island, Euractiv wrote.
Instead, the Council wants to create a state-run mechanism that forces people to register and work under EU-sanctioned rescue and relief plans, added Euractiv
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, stated that
“The (European) Council proposals would criminalise NGOs, local people and volunteers who have worked heroically to welcome refugees when the EU institutions did nothing, while other plans would incorporate those who “register” with the police to work under state structures. In a humane and caring EU it should not be necessary to “register” to offer help and care to people who have suffered so much already.”
Right-wing Germany asking for shootings
Frauke Petry, leader of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) told the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper that Germany needed to reduce the influx through agreements with neighbouring Austria and a reinforcement of the EU’s external borders.
Deterrence includes the use of armed force ,Frauke Petry said
She said it should not be shy about turning people back and creating “border protection installations” – and that border guards should, if necessary, shoot at migrants trying to enter illegally.
Merkel’s promise to turn All refugees back
Mrs Merkel has said: “We need … to say to people that this is a temporary residential status and we expect that, once there is peace in Syria again, once ISIS has been defeated in Iraq, that you go back to your home country with the knowledge that you have gained.”
Mrs Merkel said 70 per cent of the refugees who fled to Germany from former Yugoslavia in the 1990s had returned.
She urged other European countries to offer more help “because the numbers need to be reduced even further and must not start to rise again, especially in spring”.
Greek Minister :Nato will blow the smigglers networks
“[The smugglers] have used networks, infrastructure, the sea, and land roads through which they have been trafficking weapons, drugs, human trafficking, and cigarettes in the Mediterranean,”
Alternate Minister of Greecce’s International Affairs , Xydakis stressed today talking to the Euractiv.
Referring to NATO’s role in Aegean, Xydakis said: “We know that NATO’s military assistance will be a deterrence means, it cannot rescue but it can collect information and deal a blow to smugglers.”
Asked by EurActiv whether that could take place at sea, the Greek official said that operations should also take place in the coastal areas of Turkey.
“As long as Turkey is part of NATO, we believe that something positive could happen. We need to break the smugglers network.”
Europeanising the Hotspots
Belgian Interior Minister Theo Francken said that Greece “clearly lacks” the ability to handle the situation and that is why he called for the “Europeanisation of the hotspots in Greece.”
In essence, the Minister suggested that hotspots should act as a European waiting room, from where migrants that are not entitled to international protection (asylum) are returned to their country of origin.
Theo Francken for whom the Greek Migration Minister Mouzalas revealed that he told him to “drive them back into the sea; go against the law; I’m sorry, but I do not care if they drown.”
The EU Commission is to blame. Nothing was done 3-4 years ago
Europe is on the brink of collapse due to the “foolish and short-minded illusions” of EU member states, Gianni Pittella is the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) chief in the European Parliament said in an interview on Euractiv.
We are now facing the crumbling of Schengen, because nothing was done 3-4 years ago, when Greece and Italy were saving people from drowing in the Mediterranean, to the general indifference of all other member states. Having said this, we should all thank Greece for continuing to save thousands of refugees on an everyday basis, despite its difficult economic outlook. I do believe that Greek authorities must be helped concretely by Europe in order to fill gaps in the registration process. Again and again, selfish national rhetoric means that member states continue to look at the finger rather than the moon. Greece is not the problem.
The problem stems from the fact that the relocation system doesn’t work, nobody knows where to go, and who should pay, to return those who have no right for refugee status. The outdated Dublin system must be revised and Frontex has not yet started supporting member states in the control of external borders. Do we want to blame Greece for this? That’s a far too simplistic a response.
Honestly, the EU Commission has delivered here. Who is lagging behind? Who is not living up with the expectations? The member states.
Europe risks collapse as a result of the foolish and short minded illusion that we can face this problem by raising walls, closing borders, setting thresholds, discriminating on the basis of religion, or building a mini-Schengen.
Let’s start by penalising non-cooperation and rewarding those who cooperate.
“Schengen countries are just watching “, Mayor of Lesvos to CNN
But instead of financial support, the European Union is now slamming Greece, claiming that it has not acted properly to patrol the continent’s borders.aid Spyros Galinos, Mayor of Lesvos, talking recently to the CNN
“The Schengen countries are just watching this crime happening in the world and they didn’t take any action when it was happening”
Possible the Out of Schengen scenario, anyway
“Europe might close the Borders to Greece, even after the country’s commitments are fulfilled” , Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said in a tv interview on Monday evening, adding that “they don’t hear us in Europe!” , referring to the EU-Greece talks on European and Greece’s external Borders protection.
Commitments will be fulfilled by the deadlines
Earlier on Monday the Greek Defence Minister had reassured that “Greece will fulfill its commitments,” stating that all five “hot spots”for the refugees/migrants entrance screening and identification will be ready on the Greek islands in less than a week.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos discussed in detail on a press briefing in Athens on Monday the construction work that is underway in old military camps since late January by the Greek Army, and assured that all five hotspots will be ready on February 15, the deadline agreed with the European partners and Angela Merkel .
The cost of supporting the incoming refugees and migrants over the past two years and a half has reached 2.7 billion euros(3.02 billion US dollars) for Greece, according to Panos Kammenos.
Greece requests more help from European partners and neighboring countries to face the huge refugee crisis challenge, as the debt laden country is threatened by the EU with an expulsion from the Schengen passport free travel zone, and while refugees continue to arrive in thousands day to day on the Aegean islands’ shores, despite bad weather and the cold waters of winter time.
The Greek Defence Minister stressed also that two relocation centers on the mainland will be ready by the deadline, despite protests from local communities. Hundreds have angrily protested on the streets of Kos island, as well as the Piraeus suburb of Keratsini and a district in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where the two relocation centers will be set up.
Kammenos said that the government is open to dialogue, but there is no time for lengthy discussions, he emphasised, as people are dying in the Aegean Sea and survivors need aid with no more delays. According to the government, all the “hot spots” are temporary structures.
Cabinet ministers , who are obliged, by all means on the moment, to act “under emergency” to protect Greece’s Borders, have dismissed the three local communities’ reactions, as “xenophobic outbreaks” by a minority of locals, while the vast majority of residents of the border islands have shown a total different face, trying to give, all of them, a helping hand .
Indeed, among protesters at Keratsini on Monday were ultra-Right Golden Dawn party MPs and members, but in several cases demonstrators have rejected any affiliation with the party.
@imouzalas: Real the out-of-Schengen threat
Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas being interviewed by Nikos Xatzinikolaou on Star TV late on Monday, did not rule out possible negative acts on the part of Europe
“They can even close the borders although Greece meets its commitments.”, he said openly
Mouzalas summed up the national policy for the refugees to:
- the identification centers to be ready and adequately staffed,
- creating relocation centers for refugees and asylum seekers,
- and temporary centers.
- Moreover, Greece is asking a safe corridor for refugees from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, and immediate readmission to Turkey of those not seeking asylum or refuse voluntary return.
Greece’s Alternate Interior Minister, during his interview to Nikos Hatzinikolaou on star tv, also referred to the issue of unaccompanied children saying that “we are lagging significantly behind.”
To address that issue, he said that a committee composed by the ministry, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has been set up.
The Europol police agency had warned on January 31 that young people arriving alone were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
More than 10,000 unaccompanied children registered after arriving in Europe over the past 18 months to two years had disappeared, the EU’s law enforcement agency said.
- «Children currently account for 36 per cent of those risking the treacherous sea crossing between Greece and Turkey,» the Unicef spokeswoman Sarah Crowe has also said.
- «Children and women on the move now make up nearly 60 per cent» of those entering from Macedonia, she added.
(The figures mark a significant shift since June, when 73 per cent of migrants were adult males and only one in 10 were under the age of 18.)
Speaking to AFP on Monday, UNICEF’s Crowe said European mechanisms for protecting children had not worked.
This «is really a failure of child protection systems across the region», she said.
«Procedures need to be a lot faster and children need to be part of that process so they don’t fall through the cracks and they do not fall prey to smugglers and traffickers.»
Black Market on the islands
During the Press briefing on Monday February 8, Minister Kammenos also denounced “the flourishing of a black market on the islands in recent months.”
“A minority of locals has reportedly exploited the needy refugees, overcharging products and services, as long as the assistance from the state mechanism is insufficient, he said. To the moment, complete and ready, adequately functioning is only one “hot spot”that is running so far, and that’s on Lesvos island.
A total of 960,000 refugees entered Greece via Turkey on their way to other European countries since early 2015, according to the latest official data.
Find more about the Borders of the West on our full coverage updated Homepage by greek2m.org
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.
“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 )
Refugees in thousands arriving in Athens from Lesvos, and the other Aegean islands, September 2015
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.”
“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
“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.
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