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Migrants, Balkan Route: yes to the deal

BreakingNews @en/Europe di

More support to refugees through shelter, food, health, water and sanitation. Daily exchange of information between countries and Brussels. More reception capacity in Greece and in other Balkan countries. Borders management and stabilization thanks to Frontex reinforcement between Bulgaria and Turkey and 400 police officers to Slovenia. These are the topics of the deal approved by the head of 11 EU States and 3 non-Eu within European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during summit about the Western Balkan Migration Route in Bruxelles on October 25.

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In the first phase of summit, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic and Bulgaria were initially opposed to EU directives, especially Orban who wants to go on closing its borders. However, before the meeting, Juncker said: “Countries affected should not only talk about each other and at each other, but also with each other. Neighbours should work together not against each other. Refugees need to be treated in a humane manner along the length of the Western Balkans route to avoid a humanitarian tragedy in Europe. I am therefore pleased that today we were able to jointly agree on a 17-point plan of pragmatic and operational measures to ensure people are not left to fend for themselves in the rain and cold “.

And so leaders representing Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia agreed to improve cooperation and step up consultation between the countries along the route and decided on pragmatic operational measures that can be implemented as of tomorrow to tackle the refugee crisis in the region.

Poland turn to right after Eurosceptic victory, as borders closing to refugees on the part of Hungary and several Eastern Europe, combined to over 650,000 people, especially from Syria, arrived by sea during this year, demand a strong answer from EU Member states.

These are all the deal:

Permanent exchange of information
1. Nominating contact points within 24 hours to allow daily exchanges and coordination to achieve the gradual, controlled and orderly movement of persons along the Western Balkans route;
2. Submitting joint needs assessments for EU support within 24 hours;
Limiting Secondary Movements
3. Discouraging the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region without informing neighbouring countries;

Supporting refugees and providing shelter and rest
4. Increasing the capacity to provide temporary shelter, food, health, water and sanitation to all in need; triggering the EU Civil Protection Mechanism where necessary;
5. Greece to increase reception capacity to 30,000 places by the end of the year, and to support UNHCR to provide rent subsidies and host family programmes for at least 20,000 more – a pre-condition to make the emergency relocation scheme work; Financial support for Greece and UNHCR is expected;
6. Working with the UNHCR who will support the increase of reception capacities by 50,000 places along the Western Balkans route.
7. Working with International Financial Institutions such as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Development Bank of the Council of Europe which are ready to support financially efforts of the countries willing to make use of these resources;

Managing the migration flows together
8. Ensuring a full capacity to register arrivals, with maximum use of biometric data;
9. Exchanging information on the size of flows and, where requested, on all arriving refugees and migrants on a country’s territory;
10. Working with EU Agencies to swiftly put in place this exchange of information;
11. Stepping up national and coordinated efforts to return migrants not in need of international protection, working with Frontex;
12. Working with the European Commission and Frontex to step up practical cooperation on readmission with third countries and intensifying cooperation in particular with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan; Commission to work to implement existing readmission agreements fully and start work on new readmission agreements with relevant countries;

Border Management
13. Increase efforts to manage borders, including by:
o    Finalising and implementing the EU-Turkey Action Plan;
o    Making full use of the potential of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement and the visa liberalisation roadmap;
o    Upscaling the Poseidon Sea Joint Operation in Greece;
o    Reinforcing Frontex support at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey
o    Strengthening border cooperation between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with increased UNHCR engagement;
o    Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania will strengthen the management of the external land border, with Frontex to support registration in Greece;
o    Working together with Frontex to monitor border crossings and support registration and fingerprinting at the Croatian-Serbian border crossing points;
o    Deploying in Slovenia 400 police officers and essential equipment within a week, through bilateral support;
o    Strengthening the Frontex Western Balkans Risk Analysis Network with intensified reporting from all participants;
o    Making use, where appropriate of the Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) mechanism, which should be duly equipped;
14. Reconfirming the principle of refusing entry to third country nationals who do not confirm a wish to apply for international protection (in line with international and EU refugee law and subject to prior non-refoulement and proportionality checks);

Tackling smuggling and trafficking
15. Stepping up actions against migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings with support of Europol, Frontex and Interpol;
Information on the rights and obligations of refugees and migrants
16. Making use of all available communication tools to inform refugees and migrants about existing rules, as well as about their rights and obligations, notably on the consequences of a refusal to be registered, fingerprinted and of a refusal to seek protection where they are;
Monitoring
17. Monitoring the implementation of these commitments on a weekly basis; Commission to coordinate with national contact points.
Giacomo Pratali

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Refugee crisis: Msf activity in Greece

Europe di

Greece has become the main European route for migrants, especially for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. In the last two months, they has taken advantage of Turkish borders pass. Aegean Islands is the first step to reach Eu, passing along Balkan route: 244 855 people have transited from Turkey to Greece since January. To speak about this humanitarian emergency, European Affairs has interviewed Constance Theisen, Msf Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Greece, who has talked about Ngo’s activity there, like medical care and basic needs to migrants.

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What’s Msf activity in Greece?

“Our aim in Greece and along the Balkan route (we also work in Serbia) is to try and cover the immediate needs of the migrants and refugees arriving, where needed:

  • Lesvos Island: Water and sanitation in Kara Tepe camp and Moria informal camp. Two medical teams for mobile clinics in the camps and in Mytilene town and harbor, where people are sleeping outside. Mental health support with one psychologist. Bus service from the North of the island to the south so that people don’t have to walk the 65km in the sun;
  • Kos Island: Shelter, water and sanitation in Captain Elias camp. one medical team for mobile clinics in Captain Elias camp and anywhere in Kos town where people sleep outside. Mental health support with one psychologist. Distribution of non-food-items: kit with blanket, torch, toothbrush, toothpaste, energy bars;
  • Dodecanese Islands: one medical team based on a boat for mobile clinics in the islands of Simi, Leros, Tilos, Kalymnos. Distribution of non-food-items: kit with blanket, torch, toothbrush, toothpaste, energy bars. Support in all islands of local activists and municipalities with shelter (tents of shadow nets) to create space where people can sleep;
  • Athens: we have a project to help people who have suffered ill treatment (torture…) with medical and psychological support and a social worker;
  • At the Northern border between Greece and Macedonia: we work at the crossing point of Idomeni, where people will travel to their final destination through the Balkan cross into Macedonia. one medical team for consultations, one psychologist and we installed toilets and showers. Our team also distributes non-food-items: kit with blanket, torch, toothbrush, toothpaste, energy bars. “

 

Is Greece a real point of passage towards especially Germany, Sweden and Norway?

“Greece has now become the main point of entry to Europe: 244 855 people have arrived there so far (crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey) versus 119 500 arrivals in Italy (UNHCR numbers 08/09/2015). “

 

What’s Greece government’s behaviour towards refugees?

“The Greek government has shown no leadership to respond to the crisis in a constructive manner. The only way to fix the problem of so many people arriving in the islands, forced to sleep outside for days before the local police can register them and give them the paper needed to leave the island, is to have more police sent to the islands to register the people arriving and reception/transit camps in all islands where people arrive. Instead, the Greek authorities have sent more riot police to the islands (not meant to register people) and have not shown any initiative to identify spaces (fields, stadiums…) where long-term reception can be organized for the people arriving. They have disregarded its responsibilities: no distribution of food organized in most islands (Kos, Leros, Simi, Kalymnos) or insufficient in all others (Lesvos for instance). And they have abused migrants with excessive use of police force (in 2 days in Lesvos last week, our medical team treated more than 10 people who reported being beaten by the police). “

 

In yours point of view, what’s differences with Italian government?

“I can not speak for the Italian system as I do not know it very well, but I believe that Italy has put in place a national system of reception, in accordance with EU standards, providing 2 things: upon arrival a medical screening and vulnerability screening to all people arriving ; shelter (centers) all over the country, providing also food.

Instead, in Greece:

  • No systematic medical screening (not a single island provides it);
  • No systematic screening for vulnerabilities (not a single island provides it);
  • No shelter (except in some places on Lesvos and Chios islands);
  • No systematic provision of food;
    No access to hygiene facilities (except in some places on Lesvos and Chios islands). “

 

How are land routes prefer more than sea routes?

“The route for Syrians to reach the EU has changed. Why: current situation in Lybia; visa restrictions to Syrians traveling to Egypt; more and more difficult stay in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey (see UNHCR reports on access to protection, services and to the local job market there). Once in Greece, since controls in the airports have increased, more and more people chose the land route through the Balkan to reach their final destination. “

 

What are yours statistics of 2015?

Consultations until July 31st:

  • 3236 in Kos;
  • 437 in the neighbouring Dodecanese Islands;
  • 3000 in Idomeni.

Kits distributed until July 31st: more than 20 000 all over the country. “

 

Giacomo Pratali

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Giacomo Pratali
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