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Ukraine war opens debate on refugees

Greece seeking new outlook on migration issue given new flows to Eastern and Central Europe

Ukraine war opens debate on refugees

With the war in Ukraine triggering a wave of refugees, the Greek government insists negotiations on a new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum must now be completed.

The prospect of a change in attitudes among the Visegrad countries, by far the toughest on migration issues, is now on the horizon given that they themselves are faced with the realities of migration and therefore can no longer afford to be indifferent to the issue.

The goal of the Greek government, and the Migration Ministry in particular, is for all countries to realize the value of the proportional relocation of refugees, a concept which until now had not gained traction among Greece’s partners.

The issue of changing the current outlook to the migration issue was raised during a recent meeting between Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis and his German counterpart Nancy Faeser.

Greece has noted the Ukrainian crisis prompted EU states to react with a spirit of solidarity, activating for the first time the Temporary Protection Directive, which grants refugees from Ukraine a temporary residence permit in the EU.

In addition to providing immediate protection to the displaced, the directive stipulates a solidarity mechanism for the distribution of refugees, and provides for the non-activation of return procedures between member-states under the Dublin Regulation. The Greek argument postulates this implies double standards regarding free movement within the EU, if this right is only afforded to Ukrainian refugees while not applying to the rest. 

At the same time, Greece is proposing the creation of a common European protection area, within which the beneficiaries of international protection – the term refers to either recognized refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection – will be able to move and settle freely on European territory.

Under current rules, the beneficiaries of international protection acquire the status of long-term resident, which gives them the opportunity to settle freely in any member-state they wish after five years of legal residence. This is something Athens wants to change as it foresees that those who leave the country legally or illegally before the expiration of five years could be returned to Greece by the host countries.