NEWS

Migrant deal struck as Greece, Germany, Spain agree on returns

DORA ANTONIOU

TAGS: Migration, EU, Diplomacy

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the trilateral agreement on Friday for the return of migrants and refugees from Germany to Greece and Spain will not burden the country and will also expedite the reunification of split families. 

The deal’s main aim, he said, is to minimize the flow of the so-called secondary movement of migrants and refugees from point-of-entry countries – like Greece and Spain – to Germany. 

He said, moreover, that the deal was not linked to the acceptance – on the sidelines of the summit of European Union leaders in Brussels – of the Greek request for a suspension of the planned VAT hikes on five islands of the eastern Aegean which have borne the brunt of the crisis. 

New Democracy welcomed the VAT hike suspension, saying however that this had always been a conservative proposal. When the government follows ND’s cue, it said, positive things happen for the country. 

With critics arguing that the deal could burden Greece with higher numbers of asylum applicants, Tsipras said he is confident that this will not be the case as, he claimed, that current flows to Germany are limited, due to the presence of Frontex on the northern border, to 100-150 people per month. 

Furthermore, the text of the trilateral deal said that “Germany will gradually accept and conclude the family reunification cases in Greece and Spain with a view to guaranteeing family unity.” 

Tsipras said that Germany will unblock 2,900 family reunifications from Greece. 

However, given the unbending stance of several countries with regard to burden sharing and the emphasis placed on secondary movements, it is widely believed that flows to the islands of the eastern Aegean will rise and that more migrants will be stranded in Greece. 

Under the specifics of the deal, Tsipras noted that Germany and Spain are committed to backing the review of the Dublin Agreement within 2018, and promoting EU initiatives to help Greece in the event of a new migration crisis and to assist the five eastern Aegean islands financially. 

Referring to the sharp divisions at the EU summit, Tsipras said the bloc is split between countries with a chauvinistic approach on the matter and those, like Greece, with a more humane attitude.

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