EU not keeping end of bargain in refugee deal, Greece says

EU not keeping end of bargain in refugee deal, Greece says

Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:10PM

Greece has condemned the European Union (EU) for failing to fulfill its commitments with regard to a last year deal with Turkey, under which Ankara and the bloc agreed to abide by a refugee distribution plan and help ease pressure on Athens.

“We are angry with Europe (because) it must finally meet its obligations,” in terms of transferring refugees and helping the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, Greek Minister for Migration Affairs Yiannis Mouzalas said on Monday.

Last year, the EU demanded that its member states follow a quota system in a bid to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other member states, but recent figures reveal that only 5,600 people have so far been resettled under the scheme.

Mouzalas said that Athens’ partners in the 28-member bloc have only taken charge of 5,000 refugees from Greece since the program was launched a year ago, while they promised to take in 33,000 over the first year, and as many again between now and the end of 2017.

“The EU must support this agreement. It’s not a question of showing solidarity with Greece. It’s an obligation,” he said.

Under the deal reached back in March, the EU promised to provide experts to help Greece organize the return of refugees in line with asylum rules, but these reinforcements “are absent,” he added.

Mouzalas also condemned the Visegrad group of central European countries — Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — for the “sabotage” of the EU refugee plan, to which they are fiercely opposed.

Some 60,000 people are currently stuck in Greece after several European states closed their borders to refugees earlier this year.

The Athens government is still struggling to cope with the refugee crisis despite the deal between the EU and Turkey aimed at reducing the numbers of people crossing by boat to the Greek islands. The process of either returning them to Turkey, or moving them elsewhere in the EU, has virtually come to a halt.

According to the UN refugee agency, some 204,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in the first five months of 2016.

The number of the refugees who died at sea while trying to reach Europe since the beginning of this year has increased by some 50 percent compared to the same period in 2015, standing at over 3,000.

Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of them fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.

Western intervention and policies are largely to blame for the refugee crisis crippling Europe, many experts believe.

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