Greek Government on immigration after the Brussels EU summit and the new draft law
Posted by clandestina on 22 June 2009
EU to push Turkey on immigration
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that Greek efforts to secure greater support from the European Union in its fight to curb illegal immigration had met with success after EU leaders attending a summit in Brussels agreed on the importance of migrant repatriation agreements being honored.
The move was seen as a nudge for Turkey, which has failed to hold up its side of a bilateral pact with Greece to repatriate illegal immigrants arriving on Greek territory from the neighboring country.
“Greece’s positions were understood absolutely and taken into consideration in the conclusions,” Karamanlis told a press conference in Brussels yesterday afternoon, noting that leaders had agreed on the need to further “sensitize” Turkey to issues of migration as an EU candidate.
Specifically, it was agreed that the EU should seek to forge new repatriation pacts with migrants’ countries of origin and with “transit countries” such as Turkey and Libya. In addition, existing bilateral pacts on repatriation, such as the one signed by Greece and Turkey in 2003, should be honored, delegates agreed.
Another significant decision highlighted by Karamanlis was one to boost the activities of the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex to curb illegal immigration in the southeastern Mediterranean region. There was no response to Greece’s appeal for the creation of a joint European coast guard, which is reportedly regarded as “premature.”
As for the official focus of yesterday’s summit, which was the fallout from the global economic crisis, Karamanlis noted that EU leaders had decided to step up supervision of the European Central Bank system and push through reforms to boost employment.
Immigration progress expected
Buoyed by an agreement among European Union leaders on Friday that all countries, including Turkey, should be pushed to uphold migrant repatriation agreements, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis said yesterday that he expects “visible results” in Greece’s immigration problem as of September.
“I would like to believe that when we are ready, when we have the reception centers that we are getting ready, when we start a process of speedier repatriation, things will improve greatly,” he said during a visit to his home island of Crete.
It was decided in Brussels that the EU should seek to forge new repatriation pacts with migrants’ countries of origin and with “transit countries” such as Turkey and Libya. In addition, existing bilateral pacts on repatriation, such as the one signed by Greece and Turkey in 2003, should be honored, the EU leaders agreed.
A draft law that proposes stiffer penalties for people smugglers, transforming their offense from a misdemeanor to a felony, is due to be discussed in Parliament tomorrow.
“Up until now, we have seen that many are arrested – just this year almost 500 have been caught – mostly smuggling illegal immigrants from Turkey, but none have been sent to jail,” said Markoyiannakis.
“We think that the penalties foreseen in the bill will act as a deterrent and there will be a reduction in the flow of migrants from the east.”
Last year, almost 150,000 illegal immigrants and more than 2,000 traffickers were arrested in Greece. It is not clear how many of the alleged smugglers were jailed.
Markoyiannakis rejected criticism from PASOK on the government’s immigration policy by saying that previous Socialist governments had been wrong to sign Greece up to the EU’s Dublin Regulation, which means that the member state where an asylum seeker first enters the Union is also the country responsible for registering him and examining the application.