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Migrant returns and reform of the Dublin agreement

Today media continue to report on the current implementation of the EU-Turkey migration deal. While the first returns from Greece to Turkey began yesterday, they are expected to stop until Friday due to the problematic situation in Piraeus and Idomeni, Naftemporiki reports. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung specifies that the planned return of over 6,000 asylum seekers has been delayed due to the inability of Greek authorities to process all the applications quickly enough. Following the first returns of 202 migrants, many refugees rushed to the asylum office to register applications, in hopes of avoiding returns, Le Monde notes. Efimerida ton Syntaktoncomments, that the deliberate stonewalling of the European Commission leaves all the burden of irregular immigration to fall on Greece’s shoulders.

Le Quotidien and Luxemburger report, that Pope Francis is set to visit Greece to show support for refugees in Lesbos. Meanwhile, 31 Syrian refugees arrived in the Netherlands, Magyar Idők notes, adding that the refugees were selected by UNHCR in cooperation with Turkish authorities. Next week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will participate in the opening of a new Syrian refugee centre in southeast Turkish city of Kilis, Lietuvos Rytas reports.

The deal is always put into question, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Daniel Brössler notes, adding that cooperation with Turkey cannot solve the refugee crisis on its own. He therefore commends the European Commission for its plans to shift responsibility for the processing of asylum applications to European level. Moreover, according to the UNHCR, some people returned from Europe may have been expelled by mistake, The Guardianwrites. Its Europe bureau’s director Vincent Cochetel adds that Greek police “forgot” to process the claims of 13 of the 202 asylum seekers who were sent back to Turkey. A European Commission’s chief spokesman tried to laugh off the allegation saying that the rules of the European and international laws were respected while EU official Tove Ernst repeatedly refused to say if the EU would investigate such claims.

Meanwhile, ‘Save The Children’ criticised the lack of protection for the migrants who are sent back, Canale 5 says. Under the title “We will not sell our soul to Turkey”, Alithia reports MEP Guy Verhofstadt as saying, that it is unacceptable that the deal has been implemented while Turkey has still to honour basic terms of the agreement. Besides these critics, Kathimerini reports, that there are indications that the migration flows are gradually transferred from the Eastern Aegean to the so-called central Mediterranean route, which connects Libya and Italy. Commissioner Avramopoulos even said that some 300,000 migrants are waiting at the Libyan shores to cross the sea. He further revealed that the Commission examines the possibility to impose economic sanctions to third countries, such as Pakistan and Morocco, which refuses to implement the bilateral agreements for the readmission of their citizens, the Greek daily adds.

Facing those challenges, the European Commission, through First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos’ voices, is expected to approve a document today to reform its immigration policies, wanting to make all member states responsible for taking in refugees, La Repubblica reports. Member states now must choose between a comprehensive quota system and a “fairness mechanism” supplementing the current system, Die Presse notes. De Volkskrant reports that the EC will propose several options because of the political sensitivity of the issue. In Süddeutsche Zeitung, Daniel Brössler claims that the European Commission considers the first more attractive, but the second more realistic.

The European Commission is thinking about not leaving asylum procedures in the hands of the member countries and turns the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) into an authority that decides on them, Ö1 says. The aim is to point to political options that can then gradually be moved towards a solution at the level of the EU’s Interior Ministers and the European Parliament, says De Standard. In an interview with ARD, German Minister Thomas de Maizière said he welcomes the proposal but wants to wait for the European Commission’s presentation before making any further statements. According to Die Welt’s Christoph Schiltz, the European Commission’s proposal is “revolutionary”, as it concerns an area of policy considered securely within the sovereign rights of national governments, while La Repubblica’s Alberto D’Argenio says the document is “courageous”.

However, Der Standard’s columnist Eric Frey thinks that implementing the Turkey deal is more urgent than creating a new EU asylum policy. Austrian Defence Minister Doskozil even stated that an equal distribution and uniform decisions on who will be granted asylum in Europe are of utmost importance, but returns and protection of the external borders are important parameters as well. The EU borders issue is still a source of comments in today’s press. In an interview with Handelsblatt, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó says that the European Union must make use of effective border protection and thus defends the use of border fences for the time being. A Frontex report published by the Daily Express shows that there were 1.82 million illegal border crossings last year, showing that Europe “has already paid the price for the political elite’s failure to get to grips with this problem”, its columnist says. Moreover, the European Union’s border agency has admitted that terrorists are using the migration crisis to enter Europe and plot atrocities across the continent, the Daily Telegraph reports.


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