Talks held on return of migrants amid Aegean tragedies

23 January 2016
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Greek police officers met with representatives of the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex on Friday in a bid to settle a recent dispute over the refoulement of migrants who are not able to seek asylum.

The meeting came as another 42 people drowned in the Aegean while trying to reach Greek islands and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for Greece’s northern neighbors to build fences on their borders.

The meeting regarding the return of migrants to their homelands took place after Greece was criticized for seeing through a low number of repatriations. However, Greek officials made it clear during the meeting that they have encountered numerous problems in the process due to the lack of cooperation on the part of other countries, such as Pakistan and Turkey.

“They showed understanding and British officials may negotiate with the Pakistani Embassy in Athens,” a police officer told Kathimerini. Greek authorities also asked the Commission to put pressure on Turkey to accept returning migrants.

Sources said that of the first 100 requests for refoulement that Greece submitted to Turkey last December, Ankara accepted 48. Greece recently made another 100 requests, of which Turkey cleared 64. “Turkey responds positively to around 40 percent of the requests and denies that migrants entered Greece from its territory in other cases,” a police source told Kathimerini.

Meanwhile, 42 people, included 17 children, drowned in two incidents in the Aegean. Two wooden boats sank early on Friday, one near Kalolimnos, the other near Farmakonisi, in one of the worst days for drownings since the upsurge in migrant arrivals last year. The UNHCR said that more than 2,000 people a day arrived in Greece between January 18 and 21, some 300 more than during the same period last year.

Speaking during a visit to Slovenia, Hungary’s Orban called on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bulgaria to build fences on their borders with Greece to stem the flow of migrants.

“If we cannot secure the outer [EU] border, regardless of how costly or demanding that is, we will destroy the Schengen regime by ourselves,” he said, referring to the free travel area.

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