Greek-Italian push for EU migrant pacts

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi yesterday agreed to promote the creation of a common European policy for curbing a growing tide of illegal immigrants, proposing repatriation pacts between Brussels and the migrants’ states of origin and transit countries. Speaking after talks in Rome, Karamanlis said that Greek and Italian authorities saw eye-to-eye on many issues relating to illegal immigration. «We agreed to push forward with common initiatives in all directions including the promotion of repatriation agreements between the EU and the countries of origin and transit of the migrants,» Karamanlis said, adding that the role of the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex should also be boosted. Berlusconi struck a similar note, calling on all member states to contribute to efforts to make the 27-member EU the «common point of reference» so that repatriation pacts relate to the EU as a whole «rather than individual member states having to reach agreements with those on the African side of the Mediterranean coast.» Earlier in the week the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) had criticized both Greece and Italy for their treatment of asylum seekers. The UNHCR expressed concern over the decision by Greek authorities to raze a makeshift settlement in the western port of Patra that, until recently, had hosted hundreds of would-be migrants seeking an opportunity to sneak onto a ferry to Italy. The United Nations refugee agency has also appealed to Greece to avoid so-called «push-backs» of migrants originating from war zones. In a related development yesterday, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis announced that an aircraft had left Athens with 90 would-be migrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hundreds more migrants are believed to have been deported over the past few months.