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Greece Denies Doing Resettlement Deal With U.S. to Take Latino Migrants 

ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government, which is frantically trying to keep out refugees and migrants while denying reports of pushing them back, said a report it would accept some entering the United States through Mexico was untrue.

CBS News said that the U.S. was planning to refer some migrants in Latin America for resettlement in a bid to discourage them from traveling through the border, many coming from other Latino countries to do so.

The report claimed that Greece and Italy would take in small numbers of migrants processed at immigration offices that the U.S. administration set up in 2023 in four Latin America countries to screen migrants hoping to get into the U.S.

“The CBS report is untrue. There is neither an agreement nor a request from the U.S. to resettle legal immigrants in Greece,” Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis

Kairidis said that he was unpleasantly surprised by the report, telling SKAI radio that it was “suspicious” coming ahead of June 6-9 elections for the European Parliament with New Democracy under fire from rivals.

And U.S. Ambassador George Tsunis told Kathimerini that, “there is no deal,” but didn’t give any details, Greece also extending an anti-refugee wall on its northern border with Turkey and worried spring will see more trying to reach Greek islands.

CBS said centers known as Safe Mobility Offices, allow certain migrants in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala to apply to come to the U.S. or other countries legally, the issue a hot button topic for this year’s Presidential race.

Under the new arrangements, Greece and Italy would join Canada and Spain in resettling some of those processed at the offices. One source not named said Italy and Greece would likely accept about 500 or fewer migrants each.

The offices are part of President Joe Biden’s administration’s strategy to reduce illegal crossings at the U.S. border by offering would-be migrants legal immigration opportunities while he’s facing criticism from presumptive Republican nominee and former president Donald Trump.

A spokesperson for the State Department said the Safe Mobility Offices have “enabled a six-fold increase in the number of refugees resettled from the Western Hemisphere,” said discussions were going on with other countries not named.

THE CRUEL SEA

U.S. officials met with diplomats from Canada, Italy, Spain and the countries hosting the Safe Mobility Offices to discuss the initiative, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents.

In an interview with CBS News, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared to reference the agreement with Greece. “We work with Canada, Spain, and just recently, Greece, to build lawful pathways for individuals to arrive in their countries, out of the hands of smugglers who just seek to exploit these individuals for profit,” Mayorkas also said.

Warmer weather is expected to see more refugees and migrants trying to make the dangerous voyage across the Aegean to Greek islands near the coast of Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war, strife, and economic hardship in their homelands.

Most came from Syria and as far as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as well as sub-Saharan African countries despite the efforts of Greece to keep them out and stepping up patrols in the Aegean and the land border along the Evros River.

Nearly 140 migrants reached Greek shores in one 24-hour period recently, but one man, who had set off from North Africa, drowned off the southern island of Crete, Greece’s largest, about halfway between the continents.

Greece, along with Spain. and Italy, is a key entry point for people from the Middle East or Africa seeking a better life in the European Union. To reach Greece, shores, most make the risky crossing in flimsy boats from neighboring Turkey or Libya.

Greece’s Coast Guard, which had been accused of pushing back refugees at sea, said 34 men and three boys were rescued by a passing merchant vessel some 83 nautical miles (95 miles) south of Crete after issuing a distress signal.

Authorities also found 51 men, eight women, and 19 children on a beach near Monemvassia in southeastern mainland Greece and in two other incidents 22 people were picked from an islet off the southeastern island of Symi.

The Coast Guard said the refugees had paid human smugglers to ferry them over from Turkey. Nearly 16,000 people have reached Greece so far in 2024, mostly by sea. In 2023, arrivals exceeded 48,000.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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