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France Agrees to Take 400 Refugees from Overwhelmed Greece

Αssociated Press

File - Migrants warm themselves outside the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Aggelos Barai)

ATHENS - With the European Union closing its borders and refugees and other countries reneging on promises to help relieve Greece, which is holding some 100,000 of them, France has agreed to take 400, with priority to families and the most vulnerable.

France's Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez made the promise after meeting with Alternate Minister of Migration Greece Koumoutsakos in the Greek capital and said that French specialists would arrive in Greece to prepare the relocation, expected to be completed by summer.

He added the move is one of six measures reached to assist Greece with the refugee issue, said Kathimerini, the offer coming nearly five years after the refugee and migrant crisis began with Turkey allowing human traffickers to keep sending them after they had gone to that country fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and Syria.

The measures belong to a framework "of close and trusting collaboration between two countries," Nunez said and described his visit as related to "the solidarity France is obliged to express,” the paper also said.

France will send 24 specialists on asylum and could send more as Greece's New Democracy has said it will speed sanctuary applications as well as deportations although Turkey has taken back only about 2000 under an essentially-suspended swap deal with the EU.

The tour of duty for the French could be extended from two to three or four years and their numbers will jump from 176 to 200 as overwhelmed Greece is also relying on help from Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as volunteers and activists.

Other options discussed included merging flights of individuals being returned from France and Greece to their countries of origin after asylum applications were rejected, the option of having the French embassy in Greece issue return permits and also the possibility of adding a third French official at Greek airports as a link for secondary tranfers within the EU.

Koumoutsakos said that, "Europe urgently needs a policy that can address new factors," although the current EU commissioner in charge of the refugee issues as well as his predecessor are both from New Democracy and did little to help.