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Society

Greece Says EU’s Dilemma: Welcome Ukrainians, Bar Other Refugees

ATHENS – The flight of nearly 3 million refugees from Ukraine over Russia’s invasion – their destination is other countries in Europe – has revealed a double standard as they are being welcome while others are being kept out.

Greece’s New Democracy government – accused by critics of deadly pushbacks across land borders and the seas – wants the European Union to deal with the new wave by spreading refugees and migrants across the bloc.

When hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands – predominantly Syria, Afghanistan and Muslim countries – poured through Turkey and then into Greece starting in 2016 the EU said they would be divided across the 27 member states.

But a number of countries with hardline nationalist governments and anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiments, led by Poland and Hungary, refused to take them, built walls and the EU closed its borders to them.

That dumped the problem largely on Greece, as well as Spain, Italy and Malta and while the arrivals have slowed, Greece is still holding up to 100,000 in detention centers and camps on the mainland and five islands near Turkey.

The government said it could take in some 30,000 from Ukraine – called “the right refugees” by Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, but has been trying fto keep out those from other countries, including sub-Saharan Africa.

Greece said EU countries have rallied around Ukrainians and for the first time activated a Temporary Protection Directive, which grants refugees from Ukraine a temporary residence permit in the EU.

Those from other countries are kept in the camps for up to two years or more while asylum applications are processed and face being returned to Turkey – which has refused to take them back in numbers under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

Greece’s government, while being castigated for cracking down on refugees and migrants from other countries, accused other members of the bloc of having a double standard in accepting only Ukrainians.

Greece proposed creating a common European protection area, within which refugees and migrants could move or settle freely in the EU, which Visegrad countries – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic resisted.

Current rules require beneficiaries of international protection to acquire the status of long-term resident, which gives them the opportunity to settle freely in any member-state they wish after five years of legal residence.

Greece wants that to change so that those being held in camps and centers in the country wouldn’t have to wait so long and could move to where they want elsewhere in the EU, the report said, to prevent them from being sent back to Greece.

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