EU to call on Greece to speed up migrant returns to Turkey

European leaders will demand that Greece does more to speed up the deportation of illegal migrants back to Turkey amid reports of foot-dragging by Greek authorities in implementing the EU-Turkey deal on migration.

The calls for action from Greece are made in draft of the conclusions for this week’s European Council meeting in Brussels seen by The Daily Telegraph.

The draft calls for “further efforts to accelerate returns from the Greek Islands to Turkey” and a major drive to enhance the “efficiency and speed of appeals” of migrants who had claimed asylum in Greece’s Aegean Islands.

The draft communique also calls other EU states to step up support for Greece which now hosts over 50,000 migrants, some 14,500 in increasingly squalid holding camps on the Greek islands where there were riots earlier this year.

Under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal brokered by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, Turkey is to receive cash support of up to €6bn and the promise of visa-free travel for Turkish businessmen and tourists in return for stemming the flows of refugees. Read the rest of this entry »

Deaths in Aegean come down post Turkey-EU refugee deal

IZMIR, Turkey

Turkey has done its best to avoid the refugee tragedy in the Aegean Sea by doing its part in the readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey.

According to the EU-Turkey deal, Turkey is supposed to readmit all asylum seekers crossing into the Greek islands from the country.

Turkey hosts nearly three million Syrian refugees, while Europe continues its harsh policies against them.

According to figures from the Turkish Coast Guard, the rate of asylum seekers intercepted by Turkish authorities was now 55 percent. In February, the rate of interception was 13 percent, March (26 percent), April 39 (percent), May (45 percent), June (33 percent), July (36 percent), August (34 percent) and September (55 percent).

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Greece returns 70 migrants to Turkey

Greek authorities sent 70 illegal immigrants from the island of Lesbos to Turkey under an agreement between Turkey and the European Union, Greek officials revealed today.

The Anadolu Agency reported a statement from the Greek Ministry of Public Security saying: “51 Pakistanis, nine Sri Lankans, seven Algerians, a Turk, a Moroccan and an Afghan have been returned to Turkey.”

Three of those sent back to Turkey had withdrawn their asylum applications while another three did not appeal against the rejection of their claim. A further 63 were returned because they did not apply for asylum in the country under the terms of the Turkish-European agreement.

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Greece calls for peace at opening of security summit

By Diyar Guldogan

RHODES, Greece

The cohesion and cooperation of regional states is vital to securing peace in the region, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said Thursday on the first day of a security and stability conference.

“We must do all, our outmost, to have peace in the region,” he told a news conference on the Greek island of Rhodes. “Still, peace requires stability.”

Greece is hosting the two-day conference of ministers and officials from Balkan and Arab countries.

Kotzias said the nations shared a “geographic continuum” where multiple problems and opportunities intersect. “The stability of each state in the region reflects on us all,” he said. “The security of every one of us is inseparable from the security of the rest.”

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Aid and Attention Dwindling, Migrant Crisis Intensifies in Greece

NEA KAVALA, Greece — As her young children played near heaps of garbage, picking through burned corn cobs and crushed plastic bottles to fashion new toys, Shiraz Madran, a 28-year-old mother of four, turned with tear-rimmed eyes to survey the desolate encampment that has become her home.

This year, her family fled Syria, only to get stuck at Greece’s northern border with Macedonia in Idomeni, a town that had been the gateway to northern Europe for more than one million migrants from the Middle East and Africa seeking a haven from conflict. After Europe sealed the border in February to curb the unceasing stream, the Greek authorities relocated many of those massed in Idomeni to a camp on this wind-beaten agricultural plain in northern Greece, with promises to process their asylum bids quickly.

But weeks have turned into months, and Mrs. Madran’s life has spiraled into a despondent daily routine of scrounging for food for her dust-covered children and begging the authorities for any news about their asylum application. “No one tells us anything — we have no idea what our future is going to be,” she said.

“If we knew it would be like this, we would not have left Syria,” she continued. “We die a thousand deaths here every day.”

Seven months after the European Union shut the doors to large numbers of newcomers, Greece remains Europe’s de facto holding pen for 57,000 people trapped amid the chaos. Many are living in a distressing limbo in sordid refugee camps on the mainland and on Greek islands near Turkey.

A year after the world was riveted by scenes of desperate men, women and children streaming through Europe, international attention to their plight has waned now that the borders have been closed and they are largely confined to camps. Anti-immigrant sentiment has surged since last year in many countries, especially as people who entered Europe with the migrant flow are linked to crimes and, in a few cases, attacks planned or inspired by the Islamic State or other radical groups. Neither the prosperous nations of Western and Northern Europe, where the refugees want to settle, nor Turkey, their point of departure for the Continent, are living up to their promises of help.

In visits to four camps around Greece — on the island of Lesbos, on the northern Greek mainland and outside Athens — migrants already seared by conflict and poverty voiced common concerns about inadequate food and health care. They grappled with squalid living conditions, fears over their children’s health and education, and the psychological toll of living in constant uncertainty.

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Migration to Greece by the Aegean Sea Has Plummeted, U.N. Says

The number of migrants risking the perilous voyage from Turkey to Greecevia the Aegean Sea has plummeted, according to new figures released by the United Nations, a sign that a deal brokered by the European Union in March to ease the migration crisis has shown some success.

Under the deal, asylum seekers who use illegal routes to reach the Greek islands from Turkey are being sent back. Turkey is set to receive about $6.6 billion in aid to help the migrants there, many of them from Syria. In return, the European Union will resume negotiations over Turkey’s application to join the 28-nation bloc, and will resettle one Syrian from a camp in Turkey in exchange for each Syrian who is sent back to Turkey.

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Turkey Blocks Expansion of NATO’s Aegean Mission

The U.S., U.K. and Germany are pushing to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s naval mission to combat human smuggling in the Aegean Sea but face objections from Turkey, which is seeking to end the operation. Read the rest of this entry »

EU-Turkey agreement report shows drop in crossings to Greece

According to a report issued by the EU, the bloc’s refugee agreement with Turkey is working as planned. However, outstanding issues still remain on the deal, which has put strain on both the EU and Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress made on Cyprus issue: US

Advances have been made in the long-running Cyprus negotiation process between the Turkish and Greek sides of the Mediterranean island, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on June 13.

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Greece sends more migrants to Turkey

Greek officials said two boats carrying 124 migrants – most of them Pakistani men – had been sent back across the Aegean Sea where hundreds have lost their lives in a quest to reach Europe. Read the rest of this entry »