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Legal ways to enter Europe will render pointless the mediation of traffickers

12 October 2015 / 20:10:04  GRReporter
1881 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

According to the data of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 520,957 people have arrived in Europe by sea from the beginning of the year up until 1 October. Of these, 400,387 arrived in Greece, the number of newcomers in September alone being 161,320. 41% of those refugees and migrants who arrived by sea traversed the distance from the Turkish to the Greek coastline in September.

The data are interesting, which show the routes of those refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe until the end of September. The number of new arrivals by sea in Greece from the beginning of the year until 29 September was 387,520. For the same period, the number of new arrivals in Italy was 131,000. 100,238 people were registered by the border authorities upon their entry into the Republic of Macedonia from 19 June to 27 September, 149,575 on the Macedonian-Serbian border up until 28 September and 95,070 in Croatia up until 1 October. According to statistics, 291,642 people arrived in Hungary up until 30 September.

At the same time, it is assumed that 2,980 refugees and migrants have drowned in their attempt to reach Europe since the beginning of the year.

Despite the gradual weather deterioration, refugee and migrant influx to the Greek islands is not subsiding. They keep on arriving primarily at Lesbos but also at the other larger and smaller islands, which are located near the Turkish coast. The figures are more than indicative of the fact that the influx is not stopping since the total number of arrivals by sea in Greece reached 445,180 up until 9 October.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres confirmed that the influx would not decrease and said that Europe should be preparing for its increase over the coming months. He made his statements after his three-day visit to Greece, within which he was both at the first reception centres on Lesbos and at the temporary centres for refugees and migrants in Athens.

Guterres spoke to the media after his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, indicating that he shared the same views on the management of the refugee crisis. "I should mention the humanitarian nature of the migration policy of the Greek government. The refugee problem cannot be solved by technocratic means. It must be clear that we are talking about people in trouble who need support and solidarity," he said, adding that the problem is not only Greek, not only European but a global one.

According to Guterres, the best chance to solve it is the establishment of legal ways to enable refugees to reach Europe. "I was in Lesbos and I can say it makes no sense for refugees to pay 1,000 euro to travel from Turkey to this island, if they can do so in legal ways and avoid traffickers." In his words, these ways are through visas issued by the European countries and the European legislation on family reunification and resettlement in European and other countries. Guterres gave the example of Brazil, which has expressed readiness to provide 20,000 visas to Syrian refugees who will go to South America directly from Turkey.

The High Commissioner pointed out that Europe should make a commitment on the return of those migrants who are not entitled to international protection and it should help Greece in this regard. He defined as refugees the arrivals from Eritrea and Afghanistan, having alerted a few days ago from Geneva that Afghanistan "no longer receives the attention it deserves" on the part of the international community.

Antonio Guterres appreciated the work of the Greek and international non-governmental organizations, and of the local community, that helped refugees and migrants upon their arrival at the island of Lesbos. At the same time, he called on the European Union to help Greece in organizing the process of registration and identification. "If the reception is not sufficiently supported at European level, people will lose confidence in the institutions and will attempt to circumvent them."

Commenting on the statements of Greek Deputy Minister for Migration Yiannis Mouzalas, who in an interview with the global news agency Reuters said that some European countries were using racist criteria in selecting the refugees who they would receive on their territories, Guterres said, "Refugee relocation must take place in complete absence of discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds. Any statement that Christian refugees are welcome to Europe is in favour only of the propaganda of Islamist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. We categorically oppose such methods."

"The European Union should accept more refugees. Legal reception is a much better solution than forcing them to go aboard the most unstable boats that I have seen," said Guterres, adding that the best mechanism for Greece is to install reception centres on its islands that are the first line on the way of refugees. "We need to stand firmly behind the choice of the refugees in Turkey to be accommodated in different European countries. We need to create more opportunities for that."

A photo of the temporary accommodation centre for refugees in the Olympic sports hall in the Athens district of Galatsi

Tags: SocietyRefugees and migrantsTravelling by seaReception centresLesvosHigh Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres
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