Commenting on the progress report on the refugee crisis published on Wenesday (10.02) by the European Commision, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos praised Athens and Rome for a “spectacular” increase in how many arrivals they are fingerprinting, noting that matters in Greece were now progressing more quickly and that the hotspots on Greek islands and the relocation centres will soon be operational.  According to the Commission’s report, the proportion of migrants fingerprinted in Greece has risen markedly from 8% in September 2015 to 78% in January 2016. Avramopoulos said he was confident that the situation in Greece regarding the management of the refugee crisis will have improved in a month’s time. Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas, in statements to news agency ANA-MPA on Thursday (11.12) said that “the government is working hard and I estimate that the five hotspots on the Aegean islands, and the temporary accomodation centres in Schisto, Athens, and in Sindos, Thessaloniki, will be operational by the end of the month.” 

According to the report, the relocation of 66,400 people in need of international protection from Greece, as agreed by the member-states, has started very slowly with only 218 relocations so far. Only 15 member-states have offered places to Greece for relocations, providing for 1,081 places.The Commissioner stressed that other member states were also failing to stand by their front-line Mediterranean counterparts and take in more than a few hundred asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, under the EU scheme that stipulated the relocation of at least 160,000 refugees. “We need urgently to shift gears,” Avramopoulos told a news conference. 

Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas noted in Parliament on Thursday (11.02) that is no legal provision for removing Greece from the Schengen area. He stressed however that the countries on Greece’s border could close their borders: “We share a border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). There is an issue there and for this we are preparing […] in the case that tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are unable to leave Greece,” he said.  The minister estimated that the cost of the refugee crisis for Greece exceeded one billion euros, while he strongly criticised the EU and its bureaucracy for the failure, until now, to disburse Community funds earmarked for tackling this crisis.

NATO Defence Ministers on Thursday ratified the agency’s involvement in the interception of refugee flows and human trafficking in the Aegean, acting on a request submitted by Germany, Greece and Turkey.”We agreed that NATO will provide support on the refugee and migrant crisis. The agreement is based on a joint request from Germany, Greece and Turkey,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. 

Read more: Implementing the European Agenda on Migration; Fact Sheet: Greece Dealing with the Refugee CrisisRethinking Greece: Dimitris Christopoulos on Human Rights and the Refugee Crisis

  • Mouzalas on BBC Newsnight (27 January 2016)