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"Solidarity" on refugees: official reports lay bare Greek government frustration with other EU Member States
27.1.17
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Statewatch is today publishing two official reports that set out how the Greek government has sought to comply with other EU Member States' demands to control its borders and to prevent refugees leaving the country. Both reports show significant frustration with the failure of other Member States to meet their obligations to relocate refugees and to provide the necessary human and material resources to assist the Greek authorities.

The reports:

The reports were drafted in response to a March 2016 evaluation of Greece's compliance with the Schengen rules on the management of external borders, which remains unavailable to the public (Council of the EU, link). The Greek authorities drew up an Action Plan in response, on which the Commission issued its opinion in April last year (COM(2016) 220 final, pdf).

The main substance of the reports is contained in detailed annexes setting out the evaluation's recommendations and the actions taken in response by the Greek government, but the introductory sections make clear the dissatisfaction of the Greek authorities at the attitude and actions of other Member States.

The first report, dating from September 2016, notes that:

"Greece has delivered forty five (45) completed actions and provided a realistic timeframe for the remaining five (5) continued actions, ensuring a monitoring framework, including training, review of statistics and targeted interventions."

Furthermore:

"Despite Greece's stated disagreement with the assessment of the evaluation report, all issues identified in it have been dealt with as a matter of priority and urgency, with a view to ensuring, on our part, the integrity and continued functioning of the Schengen area."

The report highlights that:

"Greece has taken all necessary measures to prevent and deter any attempt of absconding from the mainland to the north, including to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia...

...Greece believes that no risk of secondary movements from its territory to other EU Member States, such that can pose a threat to the internal security and public order in accordance with SBC [Schengen Borders Code], can be substantiated."

It also makes clear that the lack of support from other Member States is a significant factor in the appalling conditions for refugees in the country (emphasis added):

"9.991 migrants remain on the Greek islands (09 August 2015 [sic]), exceed the reception capacity of hotspots since the asylum examination procedure takes several weeks before it is concluded. The reason for this is that Member States have not responded in a satisfactory way to the EASO calls for experts. This leads to overcrowding and excessive pressure on facilities...

To address this challenge, the solution cannot only be found in the increase of the total reception capacity on the islands; the migratory pressure should be alleviated by transferring migrants who have received the international protection status to the mainland in reception sites. Nevertheless, because of the limited response of other Member States to actually relocate migrants according to their commitments, more and more places are used for the relocation beneficiaries' scheme restricting the number of places available for the non relocation beneficiaries."

And:

"While only few Member States partly deliver on their commitments some others are still unwilling to demonstrate solidarity. Other Member States chose to build fences resulting only in increasing the revenues of criminal networks and changing the migratory routes."

The report concludes: "It's time to stop the 'blame and shame' narrative that has been used for too long."

Meanwhile, the introduction to the second report concludes with:

"Greece, mainly due to its geographical position and the specificities of its external sea borders, will continue to be affected more than any other member state from an unprecedented migratory and refugee crisis. The assistance offered should not be considered as an indication of dependence of Greece to the Institutions, Agencies and Member States but as a demonstration of genuine solidarity and collective action for the benefit of EU."

The reports:

Little has changed in the intervening months and, as another report published today by Statewatch notes, the EU and its Member States prefer to shut the door and return refugees rather than relocate them.

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