Athens concerned EU-Turkey refugee deal will not be honored

Athens concerned EU-Turkey refugee deal will not be honored

Athens, March 23, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Zacharias Petrou

Less than a week before the EU-Turkey agreement was signed on dealing with the refugee crisis, the Greek government appears concerned that the deal may not be fully implemented especially on behalf of neighboring Turkey.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held talks over the telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday morning in which he tabled a request for migrant flows from Turkish shores to be drastically reduced immediately. The Greek premier also requested that technical assistance to Greece from the European Union to deal with asylum applications is promptly dispatched.

According to Greek government sources Athens is so far not satisfied with Turkey’s response to the crisis since the deal to curb flows was struck. Alexis Tsipras is expected to have more talks with EU counterparts over the issue.

The Greek government is struggling to process asylum applications from hundreds of migrants still arriving daily along its shoreline. Athens is concerned that migrant flows will continue to grow as weather conditions improve, making the situation unmanageable in the next few months.

The Greek administration is concerned other European Union member-states may not deliver on their commitments too. “Greece is meeting its obligations and at the same time is asking for the implementation of the EU commitments that have to do with the immediate provision of assistance to Greece,” government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told reporters Tuesday.

“The government is working to implement the obligations from this agreement. The needs in manpower and technical assistance are already being recorded. Moreover, a draft law is being prepared for problems related to the refugee crisis which will also constitute the institutional framework for the implementation of the agreement” the spokeswoman added.

The legal framework which will be used in the asylum application procedures which form part of the EU-Turkey deal is currently being drafted, the Athens News Agency reported.

At the moment, the number of migrants trapped in the country’s borders stands at approximately 52.000 according to the government agency responsible for managing the refugee crisis. More than 3.000 new arrivals on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios were recorded in the first few days since the EU-Turkey agreement was signed. Analysts point out that Greece must step up its efforts to provide long-term accommodation to migrants and especially move people from make-shift camps.

Under the European Union deal with Turkey, all migrants and refugees who cross to Greece illegally by sea will be sent back to Turkey once they are registered and their asylum claims have been processed. In return, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with funds, visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Olga Gerovasili essentially admitted Tuesday that Greece would be hosting a large number of migrants for a longer period than had initially been anticipated. Gerovasili told reporters that the Greek government was bracing itself for this prospect because she was not optimistic that all EU member states would comply with the provisions stipulated in the EU-Turkey agreement for the relocation of refugees and immigrants to other EU countries.