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Number of refugees falls tenfold

Several EU media continue to comment on the refugee crisis affecting Europe and the EU-Turkey deal. Greek, Italian and Polish media report that since the EU-Turkey deal was reached, the number of refugees entering Europe via Greece has fallen tenfold. Brussels did not expect such a success, writes Rzeczpospolita.

According to Il Sole 24 Ore and Naftemporiki, the European Commission speaks of a radical reduction of the refugee flows towards Greece. European Commission Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said a radical reduction of refugee flows from Turkey has been recorded in recent days. EU data show that the number of refugees that reached Greece on 28 March was reduced to 192 people, from 1,667 on 20 March.

Meanwhile, Kathimerini reports that about 700 refugees and migrants arrived on the Greek islands in the Northern Aegean yesterday. Despite the EU-Turkey agreement, some media report that Greece still needs significant aid to implement the March 18 deal, which will require 4,000 agents, according to the European Commission. “Of the 1,500 escorts requested by Frontex, only 492 have been confirmed by 19 member states,” said Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri, as quoted by Le Monde.  According to a source directly involved, work on the islands could have started already, but “countries are waiting for a precise definition of Greek needs.”

Some media continue to comment on the deal, criticising Turkey’s view of human rights and democracy, and raising concern about the possibility of refugees using other routes. Bernardo Valli writes in La Repubblica that it is controversial whether it was appropriate to strike a deal on a humanitarian crisis with a country which does not respect democratic rules. In an interview with Handelsblatt, CDU foreign policy expert Norbert Röttgen critically comments on the role of Turkey in the refugee crisis, stressing the need to take a stance against Erdoğan’s understanding of democracy.

Commenting on European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s statement about Turkey’s readiness to become part of the EU, Mr Röttgen says that there needs to be a general willingness to accept the country’s potential membership but that Turkey is currently “moving away from Europe.” Migration expert Angeliki Dimitriadi states in an article in Information that the cooperation between Greece and Turkey is unlikely to work, as there are only a few days until Turkey is to receive the refugees, and several legal issues need to be worked out before that.

The Mail and Lietuvos Zinios write that while EU leaders are concerned by the fact that refugees could use new routes, the Italian Coast Guard Service reported that during the last two days nearly 1,500 migrants, including women and children, were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Last week, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that there are about 800,000 migrants in Libya hoping to reach Europe.

EC Vice-President and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said there are about half a million of them, according to Lietuvos Zinios. Meanwhile, according to Michael Stabenow in FAZ, the European Commission currently sees no evidence that refugees will resort to alternative routes to Europe after the deal will Turkey. Indeed, an EC spokesperson said that there is no information about an increase of refugees on route from Libya to Italy.

Most Greek and Cypriot media report that humanitarian aid for refugees, from Sweden and Germany, has arrived in the country. Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides welcomed the aid provided by EU member states, saying that since Greece activated the Civil Protection Mechanism last year for the support of refugees, 17 member states have offered aid, writes.

Finally, some media comment on the EU relocation plan for refugees. El Mundo reports that developed countries have only taken in 1.39% of the nearly five million Syrian refugees. Postimees writes that seven war refugees were relocated from Greece to Estonia yesterday.



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