NEWS

Help with immigration

Greece and the Netherlands yesterday agreed to work closely to curb a growing influx of illegal immigrants entering the European Union, and lighten the burden on Greece as the bloc’s southeastern gatekeeper. The Netherlands’ Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak, on an official visit to Athens, told Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos that her country was prepared to help Greece improve its procedure for processing asylum claims so that migrants whose lives are not at risk can be repatriated. But, in an interview with Kathimerini, Albayrak said migrants should not be allowed to leave Greece. «This would be catastrophic for Europe… as the message we would be giving out is that, if they make it to Greece, they can go on to the rest of Europe,» said the minister, who is of Turkish origin. Pavlopoulos said he and Albayrak discussed ways «to facilitate legal migration and avert illegal immigration,» adding that a priority was to boost the role of Frontex, the EU’s border management agency. Meanwhile in Brussels, European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot said that the EU executive body had increased pressure on Turkey to honor a bilateral pact with Greece for repatriating illegal immigrants. Albayrak, who later yesterday toured a migrant reception center on Samos, said the creation of an efficient system at the country’s land and sea borders to monitor migrants and determine which merit asylum would greatly reduce the pressure on Greece. «I believe if proper procedures are in place, only a small proportion will be granted asylum,» she said. The minister proposed that Greek authorities cooperate with the Dutch state translation agency and the EC’s directorate-general for translation to ensure that all incoming migrants undergo an interview, a test to determine their age and receive basic aid until their fate is decided. In a related development yesterday, Archbishop Ieronymos condemned Tuesday’s arson attack on a makeshift mosque in the central Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas, home to thousands of Muslim migrants. «The peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths… is a basic prerequisite for social cohesion,» he said.