quarta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2016
Greece hits back after EU's Schengen threat / “Grécia negligenciou seriamente as suas obrigações” na gestão da sua fronteira
Greece hits back after EU's Schengen threat
Athens furious at being ‘scapegoated’ over refugee crisis and fears effect of being expelled from passport-free zone
Ian Traynor in Brussels and Helena Smith in Athens
Wednesday 27 January 2016 18.49 GMT
Greece has hit back angrily after being given three months to avoid being suspended from Europe’s free-travel Schengen area because of its alleged failures to get a grip on the continent’s mass migration crisis.
The European commission said on Wednesday that Athens was failing to observe its obligations under the rules governing Europe’s 26-country passport-free travel area, known as Schengen.
“Greece is under pressure,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, a commission vice-president. “Greece seriously neglected its obligations … There are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control that must be overcome.”
Greece has been the main gateway to Europe via Turkey for more than a million people over the past year, the majority of them from the Middle East. The influx shows little sign of letting up, with more than 35,000 having made the short but hazardous crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands this month alone.
The Germans, as well as several other EU countries taking in large numbers of migrants, have long been furious with the Greeks for allegedly simply waving the new arrivals through without registration and ID checks and setting them on the Balkan route towards Austria and Germany.
But Athens responded robustly to the criticism, instead blaming Turkey’s failure to honour the deal it struck with the EU in November. Describing the threat to isolate Greece as unconstructive on Wednesday, it claimed the draft evaluation report had been conducted at a time when the situation on the ground was different to the one prevailing two and a half months later.
“Greece has surpassed itself in order to keep its obligations,” said government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili, insisting that it was not Greece’s fault that Turkey had failed to clamp down on smugglers’ rings and stem the flow of refugees. “We expect everyone else to do the same.”
EU governments made clear on Monday that there would need to be unprecedented action against Greece if it failed to start playing by the Schengen rules. Wednesday’s warning from the commission confirmed that. Dombrovskis said that a secret EU mission to Greece in November had concluded that Athens was avoiding the Schengen rules on several fronts.
“There is no effective identification and registration of irregular migrants,” said Dombrovskis. “Fingerprints are not being entered systematically into the system, travel documents are not being systematically checked for authenticity or against crucial security databases.”
The unprecedented move to sanction Greece is being combined with national governments acting to extend and prolong national border controls for up to two years, dealing a potentially terminal blow to the Schengen regime which has been in effect for more than 20 years and is generally viewed as one of the EU’s biggest and most popular achievements.
The refugee crisis and jihadi terrorism in Europe have put the system under its greatest stress and could yet bring down EU governments. On the frontline of the migration flows – 850,000 migrants traversed Greece last year – Athens is furious at being scapegoated by the rest of the EU and fears the impact of being quarantined.
The Greek foreign ministry released statistics on Wednesday showing that 90% of the new arrivals last year were from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, most of whom would routinely qualify for refugee status. By contrast, the commission said this week that 60% of those entering the EU currently were “economic migrants” who were not fleeing war and not in need of protection and should be deported.
A spokesman for the migration minister told the Guardian that despite the cold weather and choppy seas, about 3,000 refugees had managed to slip into Greece every day this month.
“In that time Turkey has agreed to take back 123,” said Kyriakos Mandouvalos, conceding that while local reaction on several islands had delayed construction of hot spots to process refugees they would be completed by the end of February. “There have been a lot of technical and political problems to get around but by the last 10 days of February five will open on Lesbos, Leros, Chios, Samos and Kos.”
The warning from the commission came in the form of a draft report on Greece’s performance, which still has to be endorsed by a qualified majority of EU governments. The commission would then give Athens three months to take “remedial action” to safeguard its place in the Schengen system. At the same time EU governments, with the commission’s support, are acting to increase border controls at Macedonia’s border with northern Greece, moves that could see tens of thousands of refugees being kettled in Greece.
Under rulings from the European court of human rights, EU countries are not allowed to return asylum seekers to Greece because the conditions for refugees there are deemed to be too wretched. But stopping them crossing into Macedonia before heading further north would cancel out the need for returning them.