Migration minister calls out EU partners for unwillingness to share burden of hosting people
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Greece has accused the EU of using Mediterranean nations as a car park for refugees and said it wanted the bloc to develop a system that allowed migrants to be moved to other countries.
The country is one of those facing large numbers of asylum seekers from outside the EU, through Turkey and dangerous trips across the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa.
The Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, on Monday called out EU partners for their unwillingness to share the burden of hosting them.
Refugees granted international protection by EU nations cannot take full advantage of the bloc’s provisions for free movement.
But Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion of their country face fewer restrictions.
“That is not fair, and Greece will insist on that point … the Ukrainian arrangement should apply to all refugees as long as they are officially recognised,” Mr Mitarachi said.
“Unfortunately, the EU at some point decided that countries of entry … would be used like a parking lot for refugees who want to come to Europe.”
The EU has struggled to overcome divisions among members over rules for refugee settlement and border protection, but wants a new migration agreement to be made next year.
Negotiations have shifted from resettlement quotas, which many eastern European countries have rejected, to a proposed voluntary system.
Mr Mitarachi welcomed a reported proposal that refugees could be granted free movement after a three-year waiting period, but warned that resettlement was likely to remain a major sticking point.
Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus expect about 160,000 people to arrive on their shores this year, he said.
Greece was a key transit point for hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees entering the EU in 2015-2016, with many fleeing wars in Iraq and Syria.
It has since toughened its borders and built a steel wall along its land border with Turkey.
The death toll from the sinking of a migrant boat off the Syrian coast after it sailed from Lebanon rose to 94 on Saturday.
It is the deadliest such incident since attempts to reach Europe illegally by sea have become more common.
Updated: September 26, 2022, 8:19 PM