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3 billion $ paid for refugees by #Greece, which might be out of #Schengen anyway, @PanosKammenos, @imouzalas

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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.

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@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.

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Children unaccompanied

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.

Find more about the Borders of the West on our full coverage updated Homepage by greek2m.org

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Iraqi man arrest in #Athens airport with passport stolen by #ISIS

 

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A 37-year old Iraqi who traveled from Istanbul to Athens with one of the false passports that were stolen by fighters of ISIS from Iraq, was arrested in El. Venizelos airport.

The 37-year old Iraqi , who lives in Athens and is married to Greek woman, argued that he received the disputed passport in Athens by mail, having sent only his a photograph of him to his cousin in Iraq, because since he could not go to Iraq himself to renew his passport , due to exit ban restrictions from Greece by which he had been charged in 2008, for human trafficking and the professional set up of criminal organization .
The whole batch of passports were stolen by jihadists from Iraqi citizens in Iraq. The police had received information from the Division of International Police Cooperation for the stolen passports, and as soon as the Iraqi’s passport was spotted, the man was arrested.

The Greek Police had been informed since the summer 2015, that a large number of vacant passports had been stolen by ISIS terrorists in the Iraqi province of Nineveh from the citizens they belonged to, during June, and that Iraqi authorities had canceled the whole batch of these passports in order to secure the entry of ISIS fighters to Europe.
The 37-year old who was arrested when he arrived from Constantinople with the morning flight, was working in an Athens restaurant and is also a co-owner, along with his two brothers, of a furniture manufacturing company based in Kurdistan.

He claim to the Greek that he visited Istanbul for a purchase of timber for his company, and also to meet his mother and one of his six sisters

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Two days earlier, two terrorists carrying long knives and military uniforms arrested in Northern Greece with Swedish  passports in  suspected of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.

Since last August , 2015, the presence of ISIS  has been a reality in the islands of Aegean, and has set the Greek Police on Error Alert. In the first days of September, in the city of Mytilene, Lesvos, as Greek to me had exclusively reported at least four ISIS suspects had been arrested. One of them had been referred to have been driving a car, playing ISIS music around the tents of the Syrian refugees in the city downtown. He was identified by an Iraqi refugee due to the symbolism of wolds, and special music tune “related to ISIS Propaganda songs”. The Iraqi refugee had notified the authorities, who spotted the ISIS suspect and arrested him.

The other three have been arrested by the Police, after being recognized by citizens, while they were walking around the waterfront of Mytilene city. The symbols of their blouzes have been recognized by local citizens, and Police was informed. They were arrested by the assistance of National Intelligence Agency.

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Despite the vigilance the Greek Police has up to now tried to show for the ISIS entrance to Europe threat, the emergency  response of the whole Western world finds Greece inadequate to secure from the terrorists the external borders and the EU Commission warned that Greece could face border controls with the rest of the passport-free Schengen area if it fails to act within three months.

The European Commission on Tuesday endorsed a damning report into Greece’s border controls that concluded: “Greece is seriously neglecting its obligations and there are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls that must be overcome and dealt with by the Greek authorities.”

The Commission wants Greece to boost staff numbers at its borders to better register migrants, and to step up checks of new arrivals’ details against Interpol and the Schengen Information System (SIS).

Greece has promised to use its military to oversee its response to the refugee crisis. On Tuesday, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos heralded the opening of the Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration, to be headed by a senior military official.

The body will be based in the country’s Ministry of Defense and will monitor the creation of five “hot spots” for the processing of migrants on islands off the country’s mainland, as well as improving transportation of refugees within the country.

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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

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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Crossing dramas and meaning of life in Lesbos. All by a storm

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Just after the storm…

At the waterfront of Mytilini port. It’s Thursday morning.

A crummy Syrian pushes his wife’s wheelchair to the Square of Sappho, some meters nearby . (But it is possible they have been going 8 kilometers long to arrive here, after the risky crossing of the sea.)

She has one foot .The other has been lost by the bombings.

They are wet to the bone by the storm that has just stopped. It’s like they have not even noticed

They tell me how happy they are to be located here.

They want to go to Germany to relatives.

It took me some secs to wonder and realize, why I had been “not in the mood” this morning, while stepping out of the “luxury” of simply a house. Sure, I was worrying about my installments of the tax office, my installments on the loan, the installments of my life .

It’s sure we have lost the meaning of life, (our-Greek chapter lives, which we do experience with worries separated from the refugees’ drama, coexisting on this same isle) while these people next us unstoppably struggle to grab the thread of life by its hair…
I give them my umbrella and leave .

It s them, who show us the meaning of life. We don’t yet see …

Visit our Empathy@Aegean Page on greek2m.org 

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SCRIPT IN GREEK PUBLISHED BY BARBARA GIGILINI , A publisher, reporter and writer of POLITIKA, contributor journalist by the Greek to me team !, Lesbos island