Can Greece’s devastating economy deal with the migration crisis?

Dimitris Avramopoulos, Member of the EC in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, participates at the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism. Date: 08/04/2016. Location: Geneva, Switzerland. © European Union, 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Alain Grosclaude.

The European Commission’s assessment on the Action Plan where Greece describes how to cope with migration deficiencies regarding its external border control reveal that the Southern country has shown remarkable improvement but there are still many points that need to be addressed and improved.

What is more, the Commission made clear on yesterday’s press release that the relocation and resettlement European schemes have not showed enough progress and EU member states should increase their respective attempts easing the ongoing situation.

It is clear that Greece, which is currently struggling to come to an agreement with its creditors, cannot handle the influx of migrants arriving by hundreds every day the moment that the Greek-Fyrom borders still remain close.

The European Parliament (EP) proposed last Tuesday a more centralized asylum system which would allow the refugee crisis to be handled more effectively. The latter entails to an asylum system that would be legally binding for the EU countries.

Greece must present actions with details

The latest assessment of the European Commission (EC) states that Greece’s actions relative to the recommendations made by the European Council must be clarified in order to bring the desired results. More specifically, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos mentioned yesterday: “The EU’s ability to maintain an area free of internal border controls depends on our ability to effectively manage our external borders. I welcome the continued efforts of the Greek Authorities to improve the situation, which we support. However, I also need to underline that all of the Council and Commission recommendations need to be met to face the unprecedented pressure at Europe’s external borders. The objective of the European Commission and of the Member States is to safeguard and strengthen Schengen. The Commission will continue to offer its support to Greece, and counts on the Member States to do the same.”

First of all, the Greek plan has serious timing deficiencies since it does not indicate a specific time-frame for actions such as equipment’s purchase, setting up a Data Immigrants Mapping system and training activities.

Secondly, there is no adequate information regarding which authorities are responsible for the implementation and supervision of the proposed actions.

Another recommendation that must be taken into serious consideration is the financing of the actions. Greece is recommended to reprioritize Greece’s Security National Programme and secure the financial viability of the Action plan.

The Greek authorities have two weeks to ameliorate the plan and provide the requested details to the Commission. However, the government’s main concern at the moment is only how to positively conclude the review with its creditors, implement the reforms needed and unlock the first tranche of the bailout funding.

Relocation and resettlement are still out of target

The evaluation of the Commission shows that relocation of migrants has been so far a total failure. Only 208 people (46 from Greece and 162 from Italy) have been relocated from March 16 till April 11. Thus, bringing the figure of relocated persons to 1.145 which is far from the 6.000 ones targeted.

As Dimitris Avramopoulos clearly stated on this issue: “EU Member States need to urgently deliver on their political and legal commitment to relocate persons in need of international protection from Greece and Italy. We cannot be satisfied with the results achieved so far. Relocation efforts have to be increased dramatically to reply to the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and to prevent any deterioration of the situation in Italy.”

On the other hand, the EC reports that 6.677 people have been resettled to 15 countries since July 20 2015 when the EU scheme started. Further, the Commission emphasizes that the EU-Turkey agreement has been providing encouraging signs adding to the resettlement efforts. More in detail, through the 1:1 mechanism (resettlement of one Syrian from Turkey for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey after arriving irregularly on the Greek islands) 37 Syrians were resettled to Germany, 11 to Finland and 31 to the Netherlands in a week.

Legal binding system the right approach

The majority of the Members of the European Parliament (EP) voted yesterday in favor of the report of the Italian S&D Kashetu Kyenge and EPP Roberta Metsola who support an immigration strategy with binding targets for resettlement and relocation for each and every member state.

It seems that the EP is following similar to the European Commission paths which will most likely revise the Dublin III Regulation changing the rules on determining which member state is responsible for processing asylum applications.

However, there is still serious skepticism among the EU member states which continue raising walls and closing their borders in order to be protected from the refugee crisis. The latter is also reinforced by the recent statement of the Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil who said that Austria will increase its border controls at the Brenner Pass crossing with Italy from June 1.

All in all, Greece which is in a very unstable financial situation struggling to find measures that will unlock the loan tranche is not at the position to deal with migration when there are still closed borders and the country has been transformed into a huge refugee camp.

Last but not least, it is still too early to say whether the EU-Turkey deal, which will be discussed by the president of the European Council Donald Tusk and president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, at a debate today, is going to stabilize the migration crisis in Europe.

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