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Greece is preparing for the "closed borders" option

10 February 2016 / 13:02:07  GRReporter
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For the second consecutive day the Greek Deputy Minister for Migration Yiannis Mouzalas said that the risk was real for Europe to close the borders of Greece, adding that Athens was preparing for this eventuality.

He added that it would be "unilateral action by other countries," which would result in tens of thousands of refugees and migrants blocked in Greece. Mouzalas admitted that Athens had delayed the construction of reception and registration centres (hot spots), assuring at the same time that they would be operational by the end of February.

He sharply criticized the public reactions against the construction of the centres near Athens, in Diavata near Thessaloniki and in Kos, where the mayor announced the holding of a local referendum on this issue.

The Minister also commented on the proposal for NATO patrols to intervene in mastering the waves of refugees in the Aegean Sea, which the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tagip adopted at a meeting yesterday. It will be officially presented to the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg today and the member states’ defence ministers will discuss it at a meeting that will be held in Brussels today and tomorrow. According to Mouzalas, the specific proposal may initially be seen as a positive development if it provides for joint Frontex and NATO patrols to guard the territorial waters of Turkey and return refugees and migrants to its coastline.

The diplomatic sources referred to by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini however indicate that the position of Athens should be especially careful, since the activation of NATO in the territorial waters of the NATO member countries cannot be perceived as a violation of their sovereign rights. The majority of the other countries would accept such an opinion as negative. The publication states that the scenario for NATO to intervene in patrolling the Aegean Sea is extremely undesirable for Athens. The reason is that it can become the starting point for raising all issues by Ankara in connection with the Aegean Sea, from the so-called "gray areas" to the demilitarization of islands like Limnos and others.

At the same time, according to a publication of the Financial Times, today the European Commission is about to harden its position to Athens. The report of the economic edition states that Greece will be handed a list of specific actions to improve the conditions for the reception of refugees. The aim of Brussels is thus to facilitate the other member states in returning to Greece those refugees that have reached central and northern Europe through the Greek borders. It is expected that the list will include measures such as the improvement of reception facilities for refugees and the health services to them, and the introduction of a more effective system of institutions to deal with the applications for refugee status.

It is thus expected "de facto" to abolish the exclusion of Greece from the Dublin Agreement, which provides that refugees can be returned to the country through which they have entered the European Union territory.

Meanwhile, the flows of refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece continue to be defined as "extremely large".

This morning alone two ferries arrived at Piraeus port from Chios, Lesbos and Kos with 1,295 refugees who cannot be transported by buses to the Greek-Macedonian border at Idomeni - Gevgelija, because of the farmers’ blockades. Later a catamaran transporting 982 other people will arrive, again from Lesbos. All of them will be temporarily sheltered in the passenger waiting rooms of the port.

Tags: PoliticsRefugee crisisNATO patrols in the Aegean SeaEuropean CommissionDublin AgreementClosed borders
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