Three years after the common EU-Turkey statement addressing the migration crisis, the European Commission is severely criticizing conditions in refugee camps in Greece, according to an article in German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag.
Referring to “an internal...report of the German Germany in Athens,” the paper quotes the chairman of the Steering Committee on the implementation of the EU-0Turkey statement, the UK’s Simon Mordue, as saying that the situation in the Samos hotspot camp is “a shame for Europe.” “Research by this newspaper confirms the catastrophic situation,” the Welt Am Sonntag article adds.
Further, according to the German embassy document, the Commission has called on EU members to put pressure on Athens and has called out the Greek government’s “low willingness” to take responsibility for the conditions and to accelerate asylum provision procedures.
The report mentions that, in 2018, only 322 people _ 1 percent of incoming migrants and refugees _ were returned to Turkey, in accordance with the common statement’s provisions and that the repatriation rate is not expected to increase significantly in 2019. It also says that Syrians, to whom the EU-Turkey statement’s provisions of “accelerated return” exclusively apply, constitute only 7 percent of the new arrivals.
Germany has regarded the agreement with Turkey as the lynchpin of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policy, which has been heavily criticized by parties and Euroskepticists to her right, across the EU. To that effect, Welt Am Sonntag says, German security circles regard the agreement as “failed,” at least where readmission is concerned.
"Only a possible change of government could increase the willingness to a more active return policy," the German embassy report says, according to Welt Am Sonntag.
Greece: where’s EU solidarity?
The German paper reached out to a spokesman for Greece’s Ministry for Migration Policy, who said that Greece has been left to deal with the migration crisis alone. "The distribution of refugees across the Member States would be proof that there is still solidarity within the EU," the spokesman is quoted as saying. This lack of solidarity and Turkey’s failure to stop the boats full of migrants from crossing is to blame for the conditions in Samos, Athens says.
The embassy report actually praises Turkey’s handling of migration, noting that 3.5 million Syrian refugees have settled within this borders, “with the financial help of the EU.”
The German paper reports that the Commission’s position is that the Greek government is responsible for handling the migrants and that thye Commission assists. “Athens has repeatedly been reminded of the challenging situation on the islands,” the paper says.