Greek govt: Migrants, not refugees, fueling resurgent crisis in eastern Aegean

Monday, 30 September 2019 18:50
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The Greek government announced another series of urgent of measures to deal with the resurgent migrant-refugee crisis in the eastern Aegean, weeks after a similar batch of measures apparently failed to stem the tide of continued landings of third country nationals on a handful of islands, or, to defuse the situation in overcrowded "hotspots".

A Cabinet meeting that convened on Monday, chaired by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, focused on the situation, instead of the latter's contacts at last week's UN General Assembly. The measures come a day after twin fires erupted outside and inside the Moria "hotspot" on the island of Lesvos (Mytilene), which has borne the brunt of the crisis since early 2015. A riot followed at the camp, while authorities later discovered the charred body of a woman.

"Based on an analysis of the statistical information regarding the nationality of those entering the country, it is our common belief that this is a migration, and not a refugee crisis," a statement by the Greek government later read.

Similar to previous pronouncements, the Mitsotakis government promised to increase sea patrols in the eastern Aegean, mainly in sea lanes used by people-smugglers operating from the Turkish coast.

The government also promised to build closed "pre-repatriation" centers for third country nationals judged as undocumented migrants, in other words, people who have filed for political asylum after landing or entering Greek territory but whose applications have been rejected.

In an even more ambitious goal, the government promised to increase the number of people returned to their home countries, or the country of entry, i.e. Turkey, to 10,000 by the end of 2020, up from 1,806 people it said the previous leftist SYRIZA government deported in four and a half years in government.

Other measures include the compilation of a list of "safe countries", whereby people that illegally entered Greece from a country in the list will be returned.

The government repeated that it will move "at risk" groups from congested island camps to the Greek mainland, while promising initiatives to "internationalize" the crisis in the eastern Aegean.

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