clandestina

Migration and Struggle in Greece

Greek and Italian prime ministers cooperate closely

Posted by clandestina on 16 July 2009

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Italy and Greece urge EU to play greater immigration role

Rome – The European Union should seek direct commitments from individual African nations for the repatriation of illegal immigrants, Italian and Greek leaders said Wednesday. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Greek counterpart Kostas Karamanlis made the remarks at a joint news conference following their talks in Rome.

The 27-member EU as a whole should take responsibility for dealing with the issue of illegal immigration, rather than “individual member states having to reach agreements with those on the African side of the Mediterranean coast,” Berlusconi said.

On Tuesday the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had criticised both countries for their treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Earlier this month Italy sent back to Libya migrants from Eritrea even though they were in need of asylum, the Geneva-based agency said.

The UNHCR also voiced concern over Greek authorities’ decision to close a makeshift camp hosting hundreds of would-be immigrants in the city of Patros, without however, providing alternative accommodation.

On Wednesday Berlusconi and Karamanlis did not directly address the criticism.

Instead, Karamanlis said Italy and Greece would continue to “cooperate closely,” on illegal immigration and also seek ways to boost the EU’s external border security agency, Frontex, so that it may step up patrols in the Mediterranean.

In May, following the coming into effect of an agreement with Libya, Italy introduced a strict “push-back” policy, to prevent migrants from entering its territory illegally.

Through the agreement, Libya has agreed to prevent the use of its shores for such sea journeys and to accept would-be immigrants intercepted by Italian authorities in international waters.

Rights activists, United Nations officials and the Vatican have all condemned what they say are deportations by Italy done without determining whether the migrants qualify for political asylum.

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Greek-Italian push for EU migrant pacts: PMs promote repatriation agreements

CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (r) ushers his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis into the Palazzo Chigi in Rome for talks that focused on illegal immigration. The leaders also discussed cooperation in the energy sector, in the proposed ITGI and South Stream gas pipelines, prompting Karamanlis to highlight their ‘strong common interests.’

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi yesterday agreed to promote the creation of a common European policy for curbing a growing tide of illegal immigrants, proposing repatriation pacts between Brussels and the migrants’ states of origin and transit countries.

Speaking after talks in Rome, Karamanlis said that Greek and Italian authorities saw eye-to-eye on many issues relating to illegal immigration. “We agreed to push forward with common initiatives in all directions including the promotion of repatriation agreements between the EU and the countries of origin and transit of the migrants,” Karamanlis said, adding that the role of the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex should also be boosted.

Berlusconi struck a similar note, calling on all member states to contribute to efforts to make the 27-member EU the “common point of reference” so that repatriation pacts relate to the EU as a whole “rather than individual member states having to reach agreements with those on the African side of the Mediterranean coast.”

Earlier in the week the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) had criticized both Greece and Italy for their treatment of asylum seekers.

The UNHCR expressed concern over the decision by Greek authorities to raze a makeshift settlement in the western port of Patra that, until recently, had hosted hundreds of would-be migrants seeking an opportunity to sneak onto a ferry to Italy.

The United Nations refugee agency has also appealed to Greece to avoid so-called “push-backs” of migrants originating from war zones.

In a related development yesterday, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis announced that an aircraft had left Athens with 90 would-be migrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hundreds more migrants are believed to have been deported over the past few months.

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