Government measures for migrant issue prove to be a double-edge sword

Government measures for migrant issue prove to be a double-edge sword

Three months after its rise to power, New Democracy seems to get the obvious: that one cannot deal with the migrant issue by simply making statements of complaint about the “ideological left government”.

Meanwhile, the situation in Moria’s “hell-hole”, as it was referred to during the pre-election period when SYRIZA was in power, became even worse as it was burdened by the increasing numbers of refugees and mainly immigrants who arrived under the new government. According to official data from the First Reception Service and Frontex up until June in Moria, a camp designed for 3,000 refugees already housed more than 5,500, but has now grown to 12,000. The numbers have almost doubled in the other islands as well.

In any case, it turned out that the immigrants did not stop coming because, as the prime minister said yesterday while speaking to his new deputies “we are following another policy, more stringent, we are not following SYRIZA’s policy”. If this is the case, then why do they keep coming in the country from Evros, where guarding the land borders – though not easy – is possible, instead of heading to Bulgaria which also has land borders?

Unfortunately, the migrant issue is one of those problems that do not have the luxury of time. Three months were enough in 2015 for Greece to drown in refugees and immigrants. The present government was not ready despite what it declared and did not immediately take action that would now, three months later, be proven to be fruitful, since a reasonable amount of time is always required.

With yesterday’s cabinet decisions the government is attempting to address the issue with a set of provisions that make it more difficult for asylum seekers to seek and be granted asylum, while in theory it speeds up procedures until the applications are processed (and rejected even though this is not openly admitted).

But the asylum procedures are not the real problem. The actual problem lies before the immigrants actually arrive in the country and then during refoulement, as they are protected by the provisions of international and European law. Thus the government, though terribly late, seems to be moving in the right direction, as it has decided to reinforce our border guard, in particular by increasing patrols at sea, building closed pre-departure centers for those who have entered the country illegally and are not granted asylum or their asylum application has been reject, as well as by taking pressure off the eastern Aegean islands through transferring immigrants to the inland.

By the time the measures are implemented Winter will have come and the flows will be reduced due to the weather conditions as it happens every year. Yet at that time the government will be able to boast that its measures have worked and it has tackled the problem. All that is needed up to that point is for no one to be killed in the sea, as in Italy, for example, or for no other child to lose its life while staying in the hell-holes they call close-type centers. Because austerity is a double-edged knife, it can help tackle the problem, but it can also put the country to the middle of an international negative publicity and exterminate an important capital accumulated in previous years via the solidarity and humanity shown by the Greek society towards the vulnerable populations.

During yesterday’s Cabinet it was decided:

– To strengthen our border guard, in particular by increasing patrols at sea. Already since last week, patrols have intensified and additional 23 patrols are being carried out daily in the eastern Aegean islands.

-Construction of closed pre-departure centers for those who entered the country illegally and are not entitled to asylum, or their application is rejected.

-Increase returns, from 1,806 in the 4.5 years of SYRIZA’s previous governance, to 10,000 by the end of 2020.

-To create a “safe country” list so that those who have entered Greece illegally are returned immediately.

-Continue the depressurizing of the Eastern Aegean islands via inland transfers.

-Internationalization of the problem, in addition to the issue being raised by the Prime Minister at the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, with four actions:

(a) Initiative on the Eastern Mediterranean Migration Road, with a related document to be presented jointly by Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus before the European Union Council of Justice and Home Affairs on 7-8 October 2019.

(b) Visit of the Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. G. Koumoutsakos to Turkey on 2-3 October 2019 for talks on the matter with his Turkish counterpart Mr. Soylu.

(c) Visit of the French and German Interior Ministers to Turkey and Greece within the week.

(d) Greek initiative to include this issue in the European Council of 17-18 October 2019. /ibna