Thursday, June 24, 2021

Greece Set to Allow Secondary Movement of Migrants Despite EU States Warning of Border Restrictions

Greece has reaffirmed its position to allow secondary movement for migrants and refugees, enabling them to travel across the European Union Member States freely. Secondary movement is considered the continued travelling to other EU countries of migrants and refugees after they have initially arrived in another country, which for migrants coming to the EU is often Italy or Greece.

During an online panel organised by the London School of Economics recently, the Greek Migration Minister, Notis Miarachi called secondary movement an “out of date concept”, reports.

The issue has caused political tensions among other EU states, which have mentioned the introduction of temporary border restrictions and controls in order to prevent migrants from Greece from entering their territories.

A joined letter of French, German, Luxembourger, Dutch and Swiss ministers sent out to the European Commission earlier this month also addressed concerns about the secondary movements allowed by Greece. The letter noted a “rapid increase” of refugees being Greek document holders.

According to the letter, the refugees are using family visits and tourism as an excuse to then apply for asylum claims upon arrival.

“We would ask for a decisive step to be taken to put an immediate end to the flagrant abuse of refugee travel documents,” Ministers’ letter noted.

However, the Greek Minister dismissed these concerns, saying that “Europe is a common space”.

We’re obliged to provide residence permits and travel documents to recognised refugees,” he said, indicating that the migrants are attracted to higher salaries and benefits found in EU member states.

The secondary movement issue is likely to entangle further negotiations on the asylum and migration reforms in the EU, as solidarity issues continue to be avoided by lawmakers.

“The solidarity, between member states, and is also to prevent secondary movement, this is a core area where we are failing today,” EU Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, stated last month.

Stephen Mayer, an official from the German Interior Minister, agreed with the commissioner noting that “sufficient priority is given to preventing irregular secondary movements”. 

These discussions come as Greece intends to secure its own borders, return unwanted migrants, and prevent others from reaching the Aegean islands from Turkey and the Evros land border region.

However, Amnesty International published a 46-page report this week, revealing fresh evidence of abuse of refugees conducted by the Greek border forces.

“Our research shows that violent push-backs have become the de facto Greek border control policy in the Evros region,” Amnesty International’s Adriana Tidona noted in a statement.

Athens has been under increasing pressure over “push-backs” – an illegal procedure where migrants and refugees are forced back into Turkey. The report presented evidence of push-back incidents carried out from June to December 2020.

The NGO also accuses Turkey and Frontex, the EU’s border agency, which has added several hundred guards in Greece.

According to a report published by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), around 66 per cent of Syrian refugees do not plan to return to their home country.

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