Counsil of Europe
Intervention on illegal immigration
To portray the issue of illegal immigration one image would do: the image of a small guard-post of 27, assailed by a crowd and guarded by just one of the 27 guards, the comparatively weakest! It is, of course, an exaggeration; but an exaggeration useful for understanding the current situation. Greece receives the vast majority of illegal immigrants trying to enter the European Union. She is obliged to do so because she lies at the crossroads of three Continents; she is furthermore, as we all know, economically feeble this period; furthermore, her coasts are 16.000kms long-the circumference of Africa! Another 1.200kms is her mountainous land frontier, equally difficult to guard; in addition, my country lies close to some of the most troubled areas of the world: it is characteristic that, since the Syrian crisis begun, the influx of refugees from that country has increased by 420,83% in just one year! To add insult to injury some E.U. agreements, such as Dublin Two, actually »imprison» thousands of immigrants into Greece, as the country of first entry. This is a tragedy of immense dimensions for Greece at a time of the unfolding of the other tragedy: the economic crisis.
And yet, there is progress: those accorded refugee status in the second degree of examination in 2012 were nearly 10% of the total number of political asylum seekers; another 5% are granted subsidiary protection, and yet another 13% humanitarian status. Outflows decreased an average 31% in just one year; the total number of those successfully deported, returned, or removed rose from 17,37% in 2011 to 28,76% in 2012. The number of those returned by air (charter flights, joint flights and voluntary returns entrusted to the I.O.M.) rose to 4.236.
There are grave problems with Turkey, despite a slight amelioration: in the last six years Greece has submitted a total of 5.622 requests for readmission concerning 122.000 people; of these people only 3.797 were actually delivered.
This clearly reveals the magnitude of the problem we face with our nearest neighbour, the country of refugee provenance par excellence. I know that the crisis in Syria is now putting an immense stress on Turkey but my figures are, as I said, for the last six years, not just the last.
Yet, thanks to the erection of the fence in the Evros river, at our own expense, and the increased patrols, inflows from that area into Greece, and hence Europe, have decreased by almost 90%.
The concise New Action Plan provides effective access to international protection; creates an efficient system of border management, and of returns; establishes a New First Reception Service, a new Asylum Service and a New Appeals Authority.
Despite these Herculean efforts by the Greek Authorities the Return and the External Borders Fund, as well as the Refugee Fund will see their economic assistance much decreased for 2013!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greece is doing much to face this immense problem. I can accept any complain: she could do more, and she could do better. But, unless the whole force of the 27 comes to the rescue, unless there is a major new and comprehensive EUROPEAN policy on immigration, and rules such as Dublin Two are changed, unless support to the countries under pressure from immigration increases dramatically, do not expect miracles. There is no company where the job of 26 can be done mostly by one, indefinitely….