Turkey, Greece pressed at EU migrant summit

Turkey, Greece pressed at EU migrant summit

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday pressed Turkey to curb the flow of migrants entering the bloc via Greece and urged Athens to speed up its efforts to accommodate and repatriate migrants.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of the mini-summit in Brussels which brought together 11 EU leaders and Davutoglu.

According to sources, Tsipras urged European officials to ensure that a recent agreement between the EU and Turkey to stem migrant flows is being observed. Tsipras repeated Greece’s position that refugees should be transferred directly from Turkey to other EU member-states.

But, according to sources, several EU leaders made it clear to Davutoglu that refugee relocations from Turkey would not begun until Ankara makes good on commitments to the EU to curb the flow of migrants to the EU via Greece.

Turkey was not the only country to come under pressure at the summit, which is to continue on Friday. 

Greece was criticized, chiefly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for delays in completing a series of screening centers for migrants on Aegean islands, dubbed hot spots.

Merkel also complained about the slow rate of repatriations of migrants from Greece. Tsipras countered that Greek authorities face problems in returning migrants to countries such as Pakistan where authorities are not always cooperative.

As for a proposal for the creation of an EU border force with stronger powers, the majority of leaders present, including Tsipras, backed the idea in principle.

The leaders of Hungary, Malta and Poland were the most cautious while Tsipras insisted that any upgraded border force should not compromise national sovereignty.

Meanwhile back in Athens, Greek authorities continued their efforts to accommodate hundreds of migrants in temporary accommodation centers.

But many appeared reluctant to stay in the designated facilities. Of some 1,300 migrants who have been staying in the Tae Kwo Do Stadium in Palaio Faliro, only 235 were at the old Olympic hockey venue in nearby Elliniko following a relocation on Thursday night.

It is unclear where the rest of the migrants went though large numbers have been gathering in squares in central Athens since the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia tightened its border with Greece.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Thursday expressed concern at the presence of thousands of migrants who do not merit refugee status, from countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan, stuck in the capital and other Greek cities.

“We do not want these people to be wandering around unable to survive, with no prospects,” he said, adding that he had called on authorities to make use of abandoned military facilities as temporary accommodation.

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