Greece under pressure at EU migrant talks, protesters in Greece march for safe routes for migrants
AMSTERDAM – Agence France-Presse
People take part in a pro-migrant protest march in Orestiada on January 24, 2016 against the fence of Evros intended to stop the flow of migrants across the Turkey-Greece border. AFP PhotoGreece faced new pressure on Jan. 25 to bolster the EU’s main external border as interior ministers met to tackle the migrant crisis and save the Schengen passport-free zone from collapse, one day after hundreds of people protested in north-east Greece against the security fence along the Turkish border.
Austria and Germany urged Athens to do more to staunch the flow across the sea border with Turkey, the main route for people entering Europe in the continent’s biggest crisis of its kind since World War II.
“Greece has to reinforce its [border] resources and accept help,” Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters as she arrived for talks with her EU counterparts in Amsterdam on Jan. 25.
The Austrian, who last week warned Athens could face “temporary exclusion” from Schengen, said it was a “myth” that the border could not be secured and that Greece had “one of the biggest navies in Europe.”
“If we do not manage to secure Europe’s external border, this is the Greek-Turkish border, the European external border will move towards central Europe,” Mikl-Leitner said.
One million migrants and refugees came to Europe last year, around half of them people fleeing the war in Syria, and more than 3,000 people died making the perilous sea crossing.
One day before the EU meeting, demonstrators, some wearing life jackets as a symbol of the flow of thousands of people making the perilous sea journey from Turkey to Greece, marched from the village of Kastanies, which lies close to the frontier, demanding the opening of safe routes for migrants.
Police stopped the marchers a few hundred meters away from the border fence, located in a restricted-access military zone.
The protesters waved placards demanding the opening of borders and a group of Pakistani migrants carried a picture of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi. A picture of his body lying on a beach became a global symbol of Europe’s refugee crisis.
In the latest tragedy, on Jan. 22 coastguards pulled 45 bodies including 20 children from the cold waters of the Aegean after their boats capsized while on their way to Greece.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias asked for more help from EU border agency Frontex to send migrants rejected for asylum in Europe back to Turkey.