Friday

30th Oct 2020

Report: Greece threatened with Schengen suspension

  • Migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos (Photo: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent)

If it does not improve control of its borders and reception of migrants, Greece could be faced with a suspension from the free movement Schengen area.

According to the Financial Times, the threat has been made to the Greek government by several EU officials including Luxembourg's foreign minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels Thursday (3 December) are expected to ask for more measures from Greece to control the flow of refugees to Europe, improve registration, and step up cooperation with the EU.

The European Commission is also concerned by the humanitarian situation in Greece, especially on islands where migrants arrive from Turkey.

Dying children

According to Belgium's Le Soir, health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis wrote a letter to commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in which he describes appalling conditions on Lesbos island, with no emergency care and with babies dying of hypothermia.

The commission and some member states reproach Greece for not implementing EU decisions or using all the EU tools it could to manage the situation.

Greek authorities are lagging in setting up hotspots to receive, control, and register migrants.

They have not delivered on promises to organise relocation of refugees to other countries and they are resisting help from Frontex, the EU border agency.

"The Germans are furious and that’s why people are talking about pushing Greece out," a EU diplomat was quoted as saying by the FT. He said "the red line for the Germans was not allowing Frontex to come in and help them."

Earlier this year, Greece delayed the disbursement by the commission of a €30 million aid package to face the refugee crisis when it did not provide the necessary documents.

The commission has also been waiting, since August, for Greece to request the activation of the EU civil protection mechanism that would trigger support from other member states.

The idea of suspending Greece from the Schengen area has been floated in the EPP, German chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right political family, since the height of the migration crisis late summer.

EPP Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban also said in September that EU countries should be able to manage Greek borders if necessary.

“If the Greeks are not able to defend their own borders, we should let the other countries of the EU defend the Greek border,” he said at an EU summit.

Pressure

Socialist Slovak PM Robert Fico also called last week to expel Greece from the Schengen area.

“We just cannot put up with a member country that has openly given up on safeguarding the Schengen area borders," he said at a parliamentary hearing.

Meanwhile, 4,710 migrants arrived in Greece on Monday (30 November), according to the latest daily figures by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


According to a separate UNHCR report, a quarter of the 730,000 migrants who arrived in Greece by sea this year were children.

"About a third of the refugees and migrants who have drowned in the Aegean Sea this year were children, while the number of children applying for asylum in the European Union has doubled compared to 2014," the UN agency said.

According to Greece's Kathimerini, the UN agency is trying to accommodate 20,000 asylum seekers eligible for the EU’s relocation program by the end of the year. The plan was agreed at a Balkan route summit organised by the commission in October.

Pressure is also increasing on the Greek border with Macedonia, where migrants other than Syrian, Iraqis, and Afghans are not allowed to cross.

On Tuesday, 1,000 migrants were sent back to Athens by the UNHCR. But at least 1,500 migrants remain near the border, blocking freight railway transit to central Europe.

EU agrees on Schengen checks for all

EU "collective reaction must be ruthless," said French minister, as controls are to be stepped up for migrants and EU nationals.

Greece risks Schengen expulsion

Austria's interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, wants Greece booted out of the passport-free Schengen zone unless it secures its, and the EU's, external borders.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Analysis

'Sponsored returns' may shuffle failed asylum seekers around EU

The European Commission is banking on cooperation and coordination among EU states to help makes its new migration and asylum pact viable. But its plan is already being greeted with suspicion by more hardline anti-migrant countries like Austria and Hungary.

Analysis

Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds

A new five-day screening of migrants at Europe's external borders is meant to expedite people into either 'asylum' or 'return' tracks. The time-limit is wishful thinking and one that could leave people stranded in make-shift camps or even ghettos.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us