EU migration commissioner warns against Schengen ouster talk

24 January 2016
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The European Union’s commissioner for migration policy, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on Sunday warned against recent suggestions that Greece may be expelled from the Schengen Area if it fails to take more effective action on managing the inflow of thousands of refugees and migrants through its borders.

“If Schengen collapses then the entire European structure will start collapsing,” Avramopoulos told Greece’s Mega TV on Sunday, adding that there are no provisions in the Schengen pact for the ouster of a member.

Avramopoulos agreed that Greece has come under increasing pressure from its European partners to speed up the establishment of so-called hotspots, centers where arrivals are documented and fingerprinted before heading further into the European Union. However, added the commissioner, “Greece had been moving at a faster pace recently” and will have to report its progress at an EU summit in four weeks’ time.

“According to the government’s commitments, mixed staffs will be set up at five entry points and their task will be to assess each case and hand over the information they collect to the European authorities so that it can be used for their relocation,” said Avramopoulos.

Avramopoulos’s comments came after Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said on Saturday that Greece may have to be temporarily excluded from the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone because it is not controlling the flow of migrants.

“If the Athens government does not finally do more to secure the [EU’s] external borders then one must openly discuss Greece’s temporary exclusion from the Schengen zone,” Mikl-Leitner said in an interview with German daily Die Welt. She added that “when a Schengen signatory does not permanently fulfill its obligations and only hesitatingly accepts aid then we should not rule out that possibility.”

“Right now, under the pressure of the crisis that Europe finds itself, we all have an enormous responsibility to safeguard this great achievement,” Avramopoulos said on Sunday, referring to the Schengen pact.

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