EU to set Greece a deadline on asylum seekers and enforce transfer of asylum applicants from EU member states back to Greece as of March 2017.
The European Commission will set Greece a deadline on Thursday [today] to fix its migration system and resume taking in asylum seekers from March next year, which would put an end to its six year-long exemption from the EU’s “Dublin rules” on asylum.
Under an agreement signed in the Irish capital in 1990, member countries which are the first point of entry for people seeking asylum in the EU have an obligation to process their application, and take them back if they have travelled on to other EU countries without authorization. Transfers from other EU countries to Greece were suspended in 2011, however, after the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights ruled that conditions in Greek facilities for asylum seekers were unacceptable.
The Commission’s “Action Plan” has been reportedly coordinated with Athens.
A new 17-page proposal from the Commission, set to be adopted on Thursday and obtained by POLITICO, says: “It is recommended that the transfer of asylum applicants to Greece … should be resumed.”
Forcing Greece to assume its responsibilities is part of a wider effort to reduce controls at many of the EU’s internal borders that were reintroduced in response to the refugee crisis, causing the temporary suspension of Schengen, the passport-free travel zone.
The current state of the Dublin system will be on EU leaders’ agenda at their summit in Brussels next week. EU interior ministers meet on Friday to discuss arrangements for dealing with asylum seekers, as well as a controversial Commission proposal for a permanent relocation system in the event of unusually high levels of refugee arrivals.
“In terms of quality, many of the reception facilities in Greece still fall short of the requirements,” says the Commission document, adding that there are particular problems on the Aegean islands, where reception centers [hot spots] “are not only overcrowded but have substandard material conditions in terms of sanitation and hygiene.”
“Moreover, overall coordination of the organization of reception in Greece appears to be deficient,” it says.
By 15 February 2017, Greece should report on the progress of the efforts to fix these deficiencies.
Greece will have to guarantee that asylum seekers are treated in full respect of EU law, but given the deficiencies in the Greek asylum system there will still be an exemption in the case of “vulnerable applicants” such as unaccompanied minors, the document says.
Commission officials said Brussels will also unveil plans on Thursday to help Greece to “de-densify” the islands, including a request for other EU countries to accelerate the relocation procedure and take at least 2,000 migrants from Greece by the end of December. That would be double the number of relocations in November, according to Commission data.
Brussels has also agreed an action plan with Athens to help “alleviate the pressure on the islands” by speeding up the “still too slow pace of returns” of asylum seekers to Turkey under an agreement between the EU and Turkey reached earlier this year.
Only 748 migrants have been returned from Greece to Turkey under that arrangement, according to one EU official. The total rises to 1,187 when including migrants returned to Turkey under a separate bilateral readmission agreement.
The Commission argues, it has spent up to half a billion euro since the beginning of 2015 alone for the migration issue, money coming from different pots and emergency funds. Funds from the ordinary EU budget of a further half a billion, which was announced in the current seven-year budget period, are on the rise, “making Greece the largest recipient of funds” from funds for migration policy before all other Member States.
The EU has so far allocated €2.2 billion of the initial €3 billion it committed to help Turkey cope with the cost of Syrian refugees on Turkish territory, while only €677 million of that money has been disbursed, much to Ankara’s discontent.
“The Commission is making all necessary efforts to ensure an acceleration of disbursements,” an EU official said.
Europe’s pressure on Athens is also included in the Commission’s recommendation: the Greek government “expressed its worries” about the new responsibility – however “Greece underlined that it would not like to be permanently excluded from the Dublin system” and then stand there alone with the refugees and migrants.
I die to know what pressure means the EU Commission put on Greece in order to receive the concession expressed in that very last and very surreal sentence
“it would not like to be permanently excluded from the Dublin system” and then stand there alone with the refugees and migrants.
I bet my last 2cents, the trade was: get them back vs short-term debt relief measures.
old-fashioned oil presser – modern oil-pressers are more cruel and more efficient
Too bad, that the EU enforced ‘new deal’ on migration shows Greece exactly as it is: a weak and broken country fully depended on the mercy of its so-called “partners.”
PS summary: instead of accepting asylum seekers from Greece -and Italy- EU member states will get rid of the thousands of refugees and migrants and upload them in the south. Problem solved in the Name of Solidarity and in the EU We Trust #Not.