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Till the end of June , up to 50 ‘guest officers’ will be deployed by Europol on rotation at key points on the external border of the EU to strengthen the security checks on the inward flows of migrants, in order to identify suspected terrorists and criminals, a EUROPOL press release announced.
They will help reinforce security at the external borders of the EU by
- supporting the secondary security check process,
- by cross-checking data against data held in specialist counter-terrorist and other databases at Europol, and
- by facilitating rapid and secure information exchange between Member States.
This will not include first line border control, although the officers will work closely with those from Frontex involved in such a task. The officers will work under the responsibility and legal framework of the country of deployment.
Europol’s Management Board approved the recruitment of up to 200 counter-terrorist and other investigators for deployment to migration hotspots in Greece and other countries, EUROPOL press release said, adding that . Europol will form this pool of law enforcement officers through their secondment from national services in EU Member States.
On previous weeks, the Slovenian director of Europol’s newly-established European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC) Robert Crepinko, had told on an interview that 10 undercover officers had already been stationed on the islands of Chios, Samos, Lesvos and Leros where refugee registration centers are in operation, as well as in Piraeus Port, doing secondary security checks to assess the possibly dangerous migrants before they would enter the EU
Crepinko added that the Europol agents would also offer aid to the Greek authorities, in the effort to locate and stop migrant smugglers operating in Greece.
New trafficking migration routes in Europe
The Slovenian official said that “We are looking into possible new routes that the migrant smuggling networks would use and we already have some developments in the new routes that have been used by organized crime,” , citing information that migrant traffickers are exploring options through Albania and Bulgaria.
“The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic.” Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said on Friday , presenting the data of 90 percent drop on the number of migrants arriving in the Greek islands in April, compared to the previous month.
But for the first time in a year, the latest UN figures present more migrants arriving in Italy than Greece, trying to make their way into Europe
9,149 migrants arrived to the shores of Italy in April, while Greece received 3,462 people, figures of the UN’s refugee agency show.
Fewer than 2,700 people had entered in April.the European Union’s border agency Frontex said Friday, putting the drop down to the effect of the EU’s migrant agreement with Turkey and tight border controls at the Greek -FYROM border.
In March, before the EU-Turkey deal came into force, under which Ankara pledged to take back migrants from Greece, 26,971 people arrived to Greece, while 9,676 arrived to Italy.
Different countries of origin
But migrants arriving in Italy are not coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the three major groups trying their luck through Greece.
Asylum seekers making their way through the Mediterranean are primarily from Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia and other Sub-Saharan African nations.
Concerns that migrants will increasingly take the Italian route have prompted fears of another mass influx, leading Austria to plan to restrict access through the its Brenner border crossing with Italy, the eurobserver wrote.
The EU Commission has expressed concern over the effect this could have on the viability of the passport-free Schengen zone.
Several MEPs at the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.on Wednesday May 11, demanded, addressing to the European Commissioner on Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, the lift of “intermediate steps of Schengen roadmap”, and warned the Commissioner that the internal border checks could seriously harm both transport and tourism in Europe.
Rumors that move EU – Turkey agreement focus form Turkey to Greece as a “plan b”, are not real
the European Commissioner on Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos answered to the European Parliament and underled that there is only one plan based on solidarity and tackling of traffickers on EU – Turkey deal implementations. Avramopoulos stressed that “rumours can do only harm” .
These border checks are “exceptional and temporary” European Commissioner said, assuring the MEPs that the aim is to lift them by the end of the year, at the latest
This happened on parallel, on the same day that President of the European Parliament was announcing the No to to Turkey’s visa liberalisation
“The Turkish Parliament has not yet fulfilled and I stopped the process”, said Martin Schulz, explaining why the Commission sent to the European Parliament the 72 visa liberalisation benchmarks of which seven , he said are not yet met .“This is a point of disagreement, we should not hide it,” Martin Schulz added talking to the reporters on a press conference with the Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs.This happened on parallel, on the same day that President of the European Parliament was announcing the No to to Turkey’s visa liberalisation
Martin Schulz said that
the scope of Turkey’s anti-terror laws were “so far reaching that we think that some of the measures are touching not directly the fight against terrorism but, for example, the freedom of expression and of media.”
“We are trying to save the package,” Volkan Bozkır, the Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator told the reporters .
Volkan Bozkır described as parts of the package the opening of chapters, the €3 billion plus €3 billion, energy platforms, economy and customs union and also EU – Turkey readmission agreement
The deal between the EU and Turkey to end the migrant crisis is facing “a very dangerous moment” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said, heightening more tension between the two sides in honoring the deal, whie Europe is seeing the recent encouraging results
The Balkan route taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe is going to be closed, EU leaders will declare today Monday at their summit with Turkey in Brussels, diplomats and officials said over the weekend, after a meeting on Sunday, the news site POLITICO revealed.
Their statement — to be approved by leaders today, Monday March 7— was discussed by EU ambassadors on Sunday afternoon.
“Irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route are coming to an end; this route is now closed,”
according to a copy of the document obtained by the news site .
Two days earlier aslo, the Austrian Newspaper Der Standard claimed it has seen a draft of the communiqué which stated that the Western Balkan route would immediately shut down and Europe would provide the necessary support to Greece to deal with the refugees and immigrants to be stuck in the country.
According to Der Standard, the draft of the communiqué included a readmission agreement with Turkey for immigrants who do not qualify for asylum. Also, Europe would ask Turkey to participate directly and constructively in the control of EU external borders in the Aegean Sea.
Moreover, the draft stated, Der Standard revealed, that the presence of Frontex in Greece would be enhanced, particularly at Greece borders with FYROM and Albania, while among FRONTEX responsibilities would be the proper functioning of the hotspots, where refugees will be registered and being prepared for their relocation to other European countries. EU countries should have done more than they have committed to do at this moment by April 1, as it is stated. According to the same draft, Europol would also participate in the process being also responsible for dismantling the trafficking.
According to the Politiko article of Monday 03/07 , the ambassadors’ meeting did not last long and ambassadors also endorsed the aim to “take forward, as a matter of priority all the elements of the Commission roadmap,” according to a diplomatic source, who added that the draft statement was not controversial. The migration roadmap, which was put out on Friday, envisages a series of steps for the return to normality in the Schengen area by December, dismantling the internal border controls reintroduced by some member states.
The new commitment to close the Western Balkan route would end the “wave-through policy” that allowed migrants to cross borders with minimal controls.
The final statement stresses the need to be aware of other routes that migrants might take if the road running through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia is shut down. There are fears, especially in Rome, that migrants will try to travel north through Albania and across the Ionian Sea to Italy.
This scenario, we have to underline, would be the most nightmarish one for Greece’s tourism, paralizing at most Greece’s tourist attraction at the Western part of the country, the Ionian islands, where most of top world’s celebrities used to trravel especially on summer months .
To help ease the humanitarian strain on Greece, where thousands of migrants are now stuck after borders were closed further to the north, the EU is counting on Turkey’s help.
“I am afraid we could have an intense discussion on that since some are complaining that the EU has been too soft with Ankara,”
said a diplomat.
The summit is intended to address the refugee crisis by making it clear that migrants will be swiftly returned to Turkey and that last year’s “open-door” policy, that made it possible for more than a million people to make their way to Germany, is over.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in his meeting in Ankara with Tusk on Thursday, agreed to step up the return of illegal migrants from Greece as part of a bilateral readmission program with Athens, another official said.
But hours after European Council President Donald Tusk left Ankara last week, Turkish authorities on Friday seized Zaman, the country’s largest opposition newspaper.An agreement at the summit still faces such political hurdles, in particular unease within the EU over a domestic crackdown in Turkey, politiko article notes
SOURCE : POLITICO.
“I was at Lesvos, Saturday and Sunday. I saw the work of the Greek Coast Guard and the Greek border guards, I saw the Greek ships– more Greek ships than Frontex ones, by the way –, I saw the work they are doing in rescuing and welcoming the refugees.
I visited the hotspot of Lesvos, one of the main access to the EU.”
“There were 700 arrivals in January 2015, there was in January of this year already 33.000 arrivals.”
“These arrivals have been managed by the Greeks. With a little help from Frontex, of course; more would be better. Arriving refugees are controlled, they are registered, they are photographed.”
Marielle de Sarnez was in Lesvos duringhe last two days of Januar2016. She met representatives from NGOs, Greek Coast-Guards and police, as well as the mayor of Lesvos, Sypros Galinos.
The Greeks do the job, so let’s not divide us by finger-pointing this country.
This is the message she delivered to the Commission and the Commissionner for Migrations Dimitris Avramopoulos today in the European Parliament.
“I want to say to the European institutions, the Council and the Commission, that the message they gave a few days ago – a distrust message vis-à-vis Greece and a hypothetical quarantine of Greece – was not a message of good politics. It was not an inspired message.”
“Obviously as you want to keep Schengen, as we all want, let’s consider the Greece border as the European border and let’s not try to play and let’s not try to be divided.”
The work is done, so let’s really stick together and then let’s take decisions.
The first decision that I ask you to take is to require Turkey to put and end to this criminal traffic and the criminal smugglers’ activities: 3.000 euros per adult, 1.000 per child, half price for storms and, moreover, the sold life jackets are usually fake lifejackets.
“That would be already a concrete, necessary and vital action from the European Union.”
President of Democray of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos hailed Merkel’s role in the refugee crisis during his recent visit to Germany, where he met with German Cancellor and also with the German Presiden Joachim Gauck .
Regarding the refugee crisis, the Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos described it as an “existential matter” of Europe.
“All the peoples of Europe have to fulfill their debt towards genuine refugees without phobias and of course will have to work to end the war in Syria, which is the root of this evil,” he noted.
Concerning the guarding of EU’s external borders, he recognized the need for collaboration with EU countries and Frontex, but ruled out joint Greek and Turkish patrols.
Focusing on Turkey, Pavlopoulos said the country needs to live up to its commitment to control the flow of refugees and especially economic migrants who leave from Turkey, “often with the cooperation of the Turkish authorities.”
He also noted the need to reactivate the readmission agreements.
Regarding the threat of terrorism, Pavlopolos said that Europe must be ruthless with terrorists who commit war crimes and must not show any tolerance and urged people to distinguish between terrorists and refugees.
German Presiden Joachim Gauck described the refugee issue as critical and acknowledged that Greece is faced with an even greater burden as a result of the migration flows, in addition to the challenges of economic reform and that there is room for improving European solidarity on the issue, since it is in the common interest of Europeans not to leave Greece struggle securing its borders unaided.
For the financial and recession crisis that Greece is facing for six years long , the President stated :
“Greece will fully meet its obligations and our partners must also fulfill their own obligations.”
Following the [program] review, which should be finished as soon as possible to avoid a problem with the seemingly positive growth prospects of the Greek economy, it is necessary to immediately start talks on the Greek debt – not for a haircut, as it is not possible by European law, but other methods, which will lead to relief and have been accepted by our partners. Especially as regards the sustainability of Greece’s public debt and the so far, extremely dubious, austerity policy,” he said
German Presiden Joachim Gauck assured that Greece can depend on European solidarity, insisting on Germany’s commitment to seeing Greece remain in the European Union and underlined that Athens’ reform programme has become one of Germany’s main policies.
Referring to the “unprecedented” crisis that the Greek people are facing, Greek President Pavlopoulos asked the European partners to take into account the unprecedented crisis that tests the Greek people and to try to establish some mutual understanding despite some initial mistakes, obsessions and misconceptions.
“No official European documents raise the issue of joint sea patrols, but if Greece is asked,the answer will be no “–answered unofficially to the media the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias , on the scenario of joint Greek and Turkish patrols on the Aegean Sea for the EU’s external border protection,,,
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