Refugee crisis or a Greek failure?

EPA/KOEN VAN WEEL

Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur (L) and Greek EU commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship speaks during a closing press conference following the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council at the Scheepsvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 25 January 2016.

Austria wants Greece to use it navy to keep refugees out, but has yet to specify how


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The Interior Ministers of the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Belgium were putting pressure on Greece on Monday; the demand is to keep asylum seekers outside the Schengen zone, register and delay the flow of refugees, or face the threat of a new kind of Grexit. Meanwhile, the Schengen zone is in effect disrupted by a series of temporary border control measures across Europe.

European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, insists that exclusion from the Schengen zone is not on the table, but there is a probe on the reasons of Greece has failed to meet European Commission and member state expectations. The Commission will draw recommendations next month, giving Athens a three-month deadline to respond.

Speaking to Dutch media, Commissioner Frans Timmermans suggests the crisis is not really a refugees crisis and that upwards of 50% of the flow are economic migrants of North African origin. He did not cite the source of this data. However, Commissioner Timmermans did not blame a specific country for the apparent “migration flow crisis.”

But, certain member states did.

The Austrian Minister of Interior, Mikl-Leitner, suggested that the Greek navy had enough resources “to secure” the Greek-Turkish border. Speaking to reporters upon arrival for the Minister’s Council on Monday she did not specify how the Greek navy could “secure” the border, but did threaten with Greek expulsion from Schengen.  The German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière spoke of the Greek failure to meet member states “expectations” calling for the need to see a tangible reduction of refugees coming to Germany. He too failed to specify how Greece could hold back refugee flows.

But, there are tangible and specific Greek failures.

The European Commission has pointed out that Greece has set up only one out of the promised five hot spots for the registration of refugees. The failure to set up centers that can register 4,000-to-6,000 migrants a day has aggravated Greece’s partners and they are demanding progress by the end of February.

In essence, the European Commission is demanding the better management of refugee flows. Other member states want to see the migrant flow end or slowed down in Greece, as natural forces such as the winter and cold weather have also failed the expectation of slowing down the boats fleeing from the Turkish coast.

Domestic pressure in Greece is mounting as well, with migrants stranded on the Greek border. Thessaloniki’s Mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, was warning the city was turning into a refugee camp. In cooperation with the Greek military, UNHCR is preparing a program for the temporary accommodation of 60,000 people in Northern Greece, Kathimerini daily reports.

While Germany and Sweden have assumed most of the pressure on refugee settlement, Italy and Greece have been the main transit points most of the one million refugees that have sought refuge to Europe in 2015.

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