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Migrant arrivals’ drop 90% in Greece, undercover agents come, EU-Turkey deal is the one

 

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Europol agents on the Greek islands 

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.

Undercover agents  already arrived

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.

 

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Arrivals drop in Greece , rise in Italy

“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.

 

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Transport and tourism harmed say MEPs

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.

Avramopoulos : there is no Plan B

 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” .

“till the end of the year”

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

 

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Martin Schultz: I stopped Visa process

“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.”

The EU-Turkey deal in dangerous moments

“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

 

 

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A hopeful rise in #GreekTourism arrivals this year, 25 million expected to visit

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ITB Berlin 2016 – Greek Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura and Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) Andreas Andreadis.

The Greek Tourism Confederation expects the number of visitors to rise to a record 25 million this year and bring 800 million euros ($897 million) of extra income,

Andreas Andreadis, president of Greek Tourism Confederation said in an interview in Athens on Tuesday March 29.

Andreadis said he expects as many as 900,000 Russians to arrive in Greece and they will account for about half the increase in revenue

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Summer bookings: Turkey’s to fall, Greece’s to rise, hopefully

The Greek tourism sector is rubbing its hands in expectation of the tourists who have dropped neighboring Turkey from their holiday agenda and instead opted for Greek shores,the greektravelpages wrote.

Turkey’s bookings  falling  sharply

Due to the rising political tensions between Turkey and Russia, terror attacks on German tourists, terrorism in nearby countries and problems with refugees and Kurds, Turkey has many problems that will directly affect tourism and medical tourism in 2016 and 2017.

Tourists are avoiding Turkey en masse, write gtp, with Germans recording a 14.39 percent drop, US tourists decreasing by 9.53 percent, Japan travelers by a massive 58.96 percent and Russian holidaymakers, which was until recently Turkey’s main market, by 51.56 percent. The number of Greek visitors also fell in February by 20.82 percent at 34,176.

In recent years, the number of tourists to Turkey went up by several million each year, until 2015.

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Medical tourism numbers also grew spectacularly, although some of the official figures are not entirely trustworthy. From a peak of 42 million in 2014, tourism numbers have fallen, with 2015 figures looking to be around 36 million.

The trend on medical tourism is expected to show an even bigger fall as the numbers of Russians, Germans and Italians going to Turkey have fallen significantly.

Russian outbound numbers on tourism and medical tourism have fallen and will fall further in 2016 due to political instability, EU sanctions, falling oil prices and the value of the Rouble falling against foreign currencies.

On the same day the Greek President of Hoteliers in Greece, Andreadis, announced the expected rise in Greece’s tourism activity , separately, on March 28,  Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry reported a 10 percent drop in year-on-year arrivals last month, the most in a decade.

Tourism and medical tourism have been heavily dependent on Russians and Germans. According to Turkish authorities, 5.5 million Germans visited the country in 2015 and there were, until late 2015, millions of Russians.

Turkey is concerned about the loss of Russian business, but increasing business from European countries had been offsetting this. Turkey is popular with German, French, Italian and Spanish tourists. The country used to be one of Germany’s most popular travel destinations, but after this year’s assault on a German tour group in Istanbul and two other attacks deliberately aimed at tourists, bookings have fallen sharply.

Tourism , unique Greece’s growing sector

While Andreadis made no comment on Turkey or its tourism industry, the expected influx of higher-spending Russian tourists couldn’t come at a better time for Greece as its economy struggles to grow and its finances still hang in the balance.

Tourism has been one of the few industries that kept growing during the crisis, with rising to a record 23.6 million people last year.

In 2015, international tourist arrivals to Greece grew by 7% to reach 23.6 million, while exports generated by the sector increased by 6% to euro 14.2 billion.

Its total contribution to the country’s gross domestic product was 18.5 percent, almost twice the European average, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Andreadis said the increase will boost GDP by an extra percentage point this year, with revenue rising to 15 billion euros from 14.2 billion euros in 2015. 

In 2015, the number of visitors from Germany specifically rose by 14.3 percent compared to 2014, to reach 2.8 million, while the overall rise in German visitors to Greece since 2010 has been 38 percent. Last year, German visitors contributed 2.26 billion euros to the Greek economy, according to the Bank of Greece

 

UNWTO projects a positive 2016 for tourism in Greece

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ITB Berlin 2016 – Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Elena Koundoura, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Greece; Dimitris Tryfonopoulos, Secretary General, Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO); Iris Gleicke, Parliamentary State-Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Michael Müller, Governing Mayor of Berlin.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, also,  expressed, on March 17,  the confidence of the Organization in the continued growth of the tourism sector in Greece.

Meeting Minister of Tourism of Greece Elena Kountoura at the side-lines of ITB to discuss the situation and prospects of tourism in Europe and Greece, Mr Rifai said

“we have no doubt that Greece will maintain a powerful image worldwide as a major tourism destination and that the country will consolidate its growth in 2016, as shown by booking trends”.

 

sources: gtp pages, International Medical Travel Journal, Bloomberg, Hospitalitynet