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Mayors of Greek Islands Call for Changes to EU Migration Pact

On Thursday, the leaders of three Greek islands who have been at the spearhead of illegal immigration to the EU called for changes to the proposed immigration pact. Credit: Greek Government

On Thursday, the mayors who lead the three Greek islands which have historically borne the worst that the recent migration crisis could dole out, asked for an amendment to the proposal of the new EU migration pact.

Stratis Kitelis, the mayor of Mytilini; Stamatis Karmandzis, of Chios; and Giorgos Standzos of East Samos, had a list of objections to the proposed legislation, saying in a joint statement  “It unduly burdens frontline countries, damages their national interests and creates grey zones in the eastern borders of the EU.

No single country “can handle migration by itself”

“It is widely acknowledged that no single EU country can effectively handle migration and asylum by itself,” the mayors acknowledged, “but this requires a joint and decisive policy, based on the principles of solidarity and the fair distribution of responsibilities among countries, with an emphasis on guarding Europe’s external borders and averting migration flows.”

Kitelis, Karmandzis and Standzos added that, in their view, the current proposal “undermines the current European institutional framework in terms of solidarity, protecting our borders and in the role of NGOs.”

The mayors want the Greek government to vote the proposal down as a gesture of practical European solidarity.

“Island residents will remain on alert” until migration rules revoked

They said that the embattled residents of their islands, who have been sometimes unwilling hosts to hordes of migrants and refugees since 2015, will “remain on alert until the full revocation of all regulations of the new proposal that harm our lives.”

In February, Greece called on the European Union and its border agency Frontex, to remove 1,450 migrants who are not entitled to asylum and return them to Turkey.

The Migration and Asylum Ministry announced that it has submitted a request for the immediate return of the migrants, as foreseen by the EU-Turkey agreement.

In particular, Greece has requested the return to Turkey of 955 foreigners who entered the country from that country and are now on the island of Lesvos, 180 who are now on Chios, 128 who are on Samos and 187 on Kos.

Their applications for asylum have been rejected and they must now return to the place of their origin — or at least where they were before arriving on Greek shores.

Migrant’s return process halted

In the first two months of 2020, there were a total of 139 returns to Turkey, while the return process has stopped since March 15, 2020, when Turkey cited the additional difficulties caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ten months later, the Ministry said, “the rapid screening procedures for coronavirus in Greece and the significant acceleration of the asylum application process, have created the appropriate conditions for the resumption of the safe return of those foreigners who are not entitled to international protection and came to Greece from Turkey.”

In a statement, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis said “We expect the neighboring country to step up its efforts under the Joint Statement: first, to prevent the passage of boats departing from its shores to our country.

“Secondly, to accept the returns on the basis of the EU-Turkey Statement, but also of the bilateral readmission agreements.”

He added: “On the other hand, what Europe needs is to establish a common mechanism in the new Migration and Asylum Pact, as well as the necessary legal tools for returns. And to fortify, in this way, not only the countries of first reception against uncontrolled migration flows, but also the action of trafficking networks.”

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