Migration plan hinges on returns

Migration plan hinges on returns

Will the government’s plan for managing the refugee and migration crisis provide a solution to the problem? The chances are slight. The present government, like that before it, is navigating largely uncharted waters. The crisis it is being called upon to manage is much bigger in size and scope than the country’s capabilities and requires a common strategy at least at the European Union level, not to mention cooperation on a much broader geopolitical level.

These conditions, however, have not been met, leaving Athens with a limited number of options. Countries that could and should be helping Greece manage the crisis have limited themselves to the role of observer, with some often going so far as to even act as critics and champions of human rights.

With the routes from Greece to other parts of the European Union becoming increasingly difficult for migrants and refugees to navigate either in an organized fashion or illegally, and with the threat of their being returned to the country if they are caught on the way, Greece has since 2015 been struggling to deal with the realities of hosting an ever-increasing number of migrants and refugees.

On the one hand, the new government has opted for closed camps on the islands and “controlled hospitality” centers on the mainland in a bid to address the concerns of local communities on the islands. On the other, it hopes that the fear of being held in a closed camp will discourage new arrivals, which continue at such a pace as to make the very notion of the islands being relieved of the pressure almost impossible to believe.

The challenge is twofold: One is staunching the flow of new arrivals; the second, and perhaps most important, is introducing an effective mechanism for deporting those who are not entitled to asylum in Greece. The mechanism agreed between the European Union and Turkey in 2016 never really worked properly, as evidenced by the numbers.

Turkey has been a reluctant partner on this issue from the outset, even when it has come to bilateral agreements with Greece. The procedure for returning migrants to their country of origin is equally if not more difficult, as Greece cannot rely on the cooperation of the government in Ankara.

The success of the plan the government presented earlier this week and has already started implementing will basically rely on these two factors.

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