Protests by human rights groups are unrelenting over how refugees and migrants are being kept in detention centers and camps but it’s the fault of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA government, the European Commission said.
With the European Union having closed its borders to the new arrivals, the problem has been largely dumped on Greece, which is housing more than 70,000, including some 15,000 on islands near Turkey, which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending more during a suspended swap deal with the bloc.
The criticism stepped up from the EU, with the German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag. Citing an internal report as saying that a commission said the situation at the detention center on the island of Samos is “a shame for Europe.”
That came after the BBC last year visited the major camp on the island of Lesbos and declared it “the worst in the world,” and with frequent violence over frustration in delays in processing asylum applications, clashes with riot police, women and minors being targeted and not enough toilets or other basic facilities, with some sleeping in summer tents.
“Research by this newspaper confirms the catastrophic situation,” the Welt Am Sonntag article said as the EU has reportedly called on other countries to squeeze Grocce over its “low willingness” to take responsibility for the conditions and to accelerate asylum provision processings.
Greece, however, has blamed the EU for not doing enough to help during the country’s ongoing economic crisis and as other countries have refused to take in some of the overlad after promising to do so.
There was no mention either of the EU’s migration chief, Dimitris Avramopoulos, from Greece’s major opposition New Democracy, refusing to take other countries to court as he said he would before backing off because he said it was too much of a hot potato for him.
The report mentions that, in 2018, only 322 people, about 1 percent of incoming migrants and refugees, were returned to Turkey, and that the repatriation rate is not expected to increase significantly in 2019.
It also said that Syrians, to whom the EU-Turkey statement’s provisions of “accelerated return” exclusively apply, constitute only 7 percent of the new arrivals.
Germany had taken in the most refugees and migrants before halting that and the swap deal was largely driven by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has a testy relationship with Turkey as her migration policy has been criticized by rightist parties.
The newspaper said that German security circles regard the agreement as “failed,” at least where readmission is concerned and Turkey essentially not even gesturing to take in more in a deal that was supposed to see the country’s EU accession hopes fast-tracked, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the EU and six billion euros ($6.81 billion) in payments.
“Only a possible change of government could increase the willingness to a more active return policy,” the German embassy report said, according to Welt Am Sonntag. New Democracy holds a big lead over SYRIZA and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras with elections coming this year.
The German paper said a spokesman for Greece’s Ministry for Migration Policy, who was not named, said Greece was abandoned by the EU to deal with the problem itself.
“The distribution of refugees across the Member States would be proof that there is still solidarity within the EU,” the spokesman is quoted as saying, with Greece also blaming Turkey for not stopping traffickers from continuing to send more to Greek islands.
Ironically, the report said Turkey has taken in some 3.5 million Syrian refugees – in a country with nearly 80 million people – “with the financial help of the EU.”
The EU, the report said, insisted it’s Greece’s problem. “Athens has repeatedly been reminded of the challenging situation on the islands,” the paper said.