The third consecutive resignation within seven months has sent, reportedly, the Secretary General for Migration Policy Mr. Vasilis Papadopoulos, denounces the situation in the Greek islands “with the ever growing concentration of migrant and refugee population”, following the example of the previous Secretary General Odysseas Voudouris who resigned nearly two months ago …..
“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.)
Marie Pierre Poirier, Unicef’s special coordinator for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, said women and children were even more vulnerable to the dangers of trying to travel to Europe.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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
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.
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.”
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 .