01 February 2016
Greek military to oversee response to refugee crisis (ekathimerini.com, link):
"Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Tuesday heralded the creation of a central body to oversee and improve Greece’s response to the migration and refugee crisis and ensure the country safeguards its position in the Schengen passport-free area, noting that the new body will be led by a senior military official.
Greece’s military is to have the oversight of the “Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration” until the Migration Ministry and the Hellenic Police gain the necessary know-how and experience to tackle the problem independently, Kammenos indicated at Tuesday’s press conference....
The center, which is to be operational by February 15, is to be based at the Defense Ministry headquarters and coordinate with the Hellenic Police, Coast Guard, Migration Ministry and nongovernmental organizations working with migrants and refugees.
The aim is to increase the efficiency of transferring migrants from the islands to the mainland, to improve the provision of food as well as medical and healthcare to migrants, and to monitor the creation of five screening centers, or hot spots, for migrants on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros....
The screening and relocation centers are to operate in a similar way to the central body, under a local military official who is to coordinate with police and coast guard officers."
See also: Greece pledges to speed up delivery of migrant 'hotspot' centers (Reuters, link)
EU: European Commission: Commission adopts Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece and proposes recommendations to address deficiencies in external border management (Press release, pdf)
"The recommendations seek to ensure that Greece applies all Schengen rules related to management of external border correctly and effectively. Recommendations are made in a number of areas such as the improvement of the registration procedures, including ensuring a sufficient number of staff and fingerprint scanners for registration and verification of migrants and their travel documents against SIS, Interpol and national databases. Greece should provide the necessary facilities for accommodation during the registration process and launch return procedures for irregular migrants who are not seeking asylum and who are not in need of international protection. Border surveillance should be improved, including the establishment of a risk analysis system and increased training of border guards.
Improvements should also be made to infrastructure and equipment at the border crossing points. In order to ensure compliance with these recommendations, the Commission may, in addition, recommend that Greece takes certain specific measures under Article 19a of the Schengen Borders Code, given the serious deficiencies noted in the Schengen Evaluation Report."
Reports from Lesvos
Eric Kempson: We Should Be United! 02/02/2016 (youtube link) - new sea operation started with large boats picking up refugees at sea. He has been told will last for 10 days.
And other reports that big ships are patrolling the coast then off-loading refugees at Moria processing centre. Refugees must buy not only their own ferry ticket to Athens, but the bus/taxi from Moria (processing centre) to Mytilini.
The IOM reports that arrivals in 2016 up to 2 February total: 67,193, to Greece: 62,193, to Italy 5,000. 368 dead/missing and UNHCR reports: 61,746 arrivals with 61,746 to Greece, 5,320 to Italy. 363 dead/missing. 78% of all arrivals since January 2015 have been from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
EU court: ‘Irregular’ migrants should not be jailed (politico, link): "EU countries should not be able to imprison migrants who are staying in Europe without the necessary documentation, a senior Union lawyer said in a new opinion released Tuesday.... The case under scrutiny by the court concerns Sélina Affum, a Ghanaian national, who tried to take the Channel Tunnel on a journey from Ghent to London while using someone else’s passport in 2013. She was caught at the Belgian-French border and placed in the custody of French authorities.According to French law, an irregular migrant can be imprisoned for up to one year. This law could be overturned by the European Court of Justice’s ruling. "
EU approves Turkey migration fund as Italy drops objections (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "European Union countries approved on Feb. 3 funds for Turkey to help refugees and migrants in the country in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them venture out towards Europe . All 28 EU countries signed off on the proposal at a meeting in Brussels on Feb. 3 after Italy dropped its opposition to the plan, which was first approved in November."
and see: EU-Turkey Cooperation: Commission welcomes Member State agreement on Refugee Facility for Turkey (Press release, pdf) and Factsheet: EU support in response to the Syrian crisis (pdf)
Migrants set out on foot along Greek highway to FYROM (ekathimerini.com, link): "Hundreds of migrants set out on foot along a major north-south highway in Greece on Tuesday, heading north for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) after being stranded for days by farmer and taxi driver protests on either side of the frontier. At least 80 buses packed with migrants, many of them women and children fleeing the war in Syria, were backed up 10 km (6.2 miles) short of Greece's border with FYROM, halted by police.... The border was effectively closed for migrants but regular car traffic had been flowing with minor disruption. Then, with patience running out, hundreds of migrants disembarked from their stationary buses and blocked the road, sitting on the tarmac and chanting “Macedonia, Macedonia!”
European Parliament: MEPs migration debate turns into ‘stress test’ of European values (euractiv, link): "We are on a stress test of our European values, Bert Koenders, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister admitted in the European Parliament yesterday (2 February), following a 5-hour debate on the ongoing migration crisis, in which more than 150 statements were made.... Lawmakers expressed views ranging from welcoming refugees to closing the EU’s borders, kicking Greece out of the EU’s borderless Schengen area, and punishing Central European EU members for being reluctant to share the refugee burden by depriving them of EU funding. UKIP MEPs said the developments illustrated that it was a good occasion for the UK to leave the EU."
A third of migrants sailing to Greece are children: UNICEF (euractiv, link): "Children now make up over a third of the migrants making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, the UN has said, as two more babies drowned off Europe's shores. For the first time since the start of the migrant crisis in Europe, there are also now more women and children crossing the border from Greece to Macedonia than adult males, according to UN children's agency UNICEF, in a report on Tuesday (2 February)."
France bans anti-migrant Pegida march in Calais (The Local.fr, link): "The French government has banned public demonstrations in Calais days before the anti-Islam group Pegida had planned to march through the town."
Austria: Coalition parties fight over asylum benefits (The Local.at, link): "Austria's conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) is calling for nationwide reductions in welfare benefits to immigrants, but the Social Democrats (SPÖ) have said any cuts would be “unconstitutional”."
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