Migration and Struggle in Greece

Rift Between the North and the South

Posted by clandestina on 18 July 2009


Rift Between the North and the South

The rift between the northern and southern EU states is set to grow larger as yesterday’s meeting of EU Interior Ministers in Stockholm postponedany re-examination of the Dublin II Regulation till 2014. The Dublin II Regulation, which stipulates that migrants must apply for asylum in the first EU member state they enter, has resulted in what southern EU states claim is disproportionate pressure on the immigrant reception services in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta.

Roberto Maroni, Italy’s interior minister and member of the right wing Lega Nord, demanded that the issue of ‘burden-sharing’ should be one of the top priorities in the EU’s new five-year plan on justice issues. As a result, the EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot agreed to make the European Refugee Fund applicable to all incoming migrants, not just those successfully claiming asylum and that several million euros in aid will be given to the Mediterranean states to spend on additional reception centres, food and social support for migrants.

This comes against the backdrop of a number of other recent developments. On Wednesday, the Greek and Italian Prime Ministers met and agreed on a common front to push for EU policy to curbing the numbers of illegal migrants, negotiating repatriation pacts between Brussels and the migrants’ states of origin and transit countries and increasing the role of the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex.

Wednesday also saw the deportation of 90 migrants by air to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the latest in a growing number of flights from Athens as Greece seeks to remove the 99% plus of migrants whose asylum claims the Greek state routinely turns down.

Earlier in the week the UNHCR criticised both countries for their immigration policies. Greece was criticised for the decision to destroy the Patras migrant camp and deport some of the migrants before their asylum claims had been examined. It also appealed to Greece to avoid so-called “push-backs” of migrants originating from war zones (Greece regularly buses migrants back to Turkey without any due process).

Athens has recently accused Ankara of failing to stop clandestine immigration through Turkish territory, which the Greeks, and now even the EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot, say has pushed their resources to the limit and is destabilising “Greek democracy” (a reference to the recent election of extreme right wing LAOS MEPs). Interestingly, new figures from the Greek coastguard show a pronounced drop in migrant interceptions over the past few months.

Greece officials have also been examining disused army barracks to open as temporary reception centres for the thousands of migrants awaiting the processing of their asylum applications. One likely choice is a disused military site on the island of Evia.

Italy has also been the recipient of forceful criticism from the UNHCR about its use of force when intercepting 82 mainly Eritrean migrants on July 1st 30 miles off the Lampedusa coast, who were then returned to Libya under Italy’s own ‘push-back’ immigration policy. A ”significant number” of people on board the boat, including nine women and six children, were returned illegally as they had legitimate claims to asylum status, the agency claimed.

In an astonishing fit of pique, Italy’s EU Affairs Minister, Andrea Ronchi, rebuffed the criticism, saying the UNHCR ”should be ashamed of itself” and should ”apologise to Italy” over the allegations. ”These are hasty, false, demagogic, offensive and repugnant accusations that offend our armed forces, who every day demonstrate their morality, their dedication, humanity, competence and sacrifice”.

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