NATO to return rescued migrants to Turkey; Greece recalls ambassador to Austria, Feb 22-26

(EKathimerini)

(EKathimerini)

Headlines from Greece, Europe and Turkey for the week Feb. 22 – 26

GREECE

Greece recalls ambassador to Austria after being excluded from a meeting with Austria and Balkan states on the migrant crisis. Austria, Serbia and the Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia have closed their borders to either all migrants or non-Syrian or Iraqi migrants, trapping many migrants in Greece. (BBC, Feb. 25)

Passenger ferry companies and travel agencies will temporarily slow the pace of migrants leaving from the islands for the mainland in an attempt to stem the flow into camps in mainland Greece, that cannot “contain” the migrants, Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas said on Friday. The European countries north of Greece have closed their border, trapping 20,000 migrants on the mainland. (EKathimerini, Feb 26)

More than 100,000 refugees arrived on the Greek islands of Samos, Kos and Lesbos in 2016 so far, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). (The Guardian, Feb. 23)

VIDEO: Refugees and migrants break through steel fence between Greece and FYROM just one day after FYROM closed its borders to deter refugees and migrants from entering. (The Guardian, Feb. 23)

The IMF confirmed on Tuesday that it had cancelled Greece’s bailout program to avoid administrative costs. The cancellation took effect in January and the Greek government has already requested a new program. (EKathimerini, Feb. 23)

EUROPE 

NATO mission in the Aegean will send rescued migrants back to Turkey, but will not “turn back boats.” (NATO Press Statement, Feb 25)

VIDEO: Authorities begin to evict migrants from the Calais migrant camp in northern France. (The Guardian/Reuters, Feb. 26)

Belgium reintroduced border controls and suspended the Schengen rules as French authorities prepare to dismantle the Calais migrant camp in the north of France. To avoid an influx of migrants travelling through Belgium to the UK, Belgium’s Interior Minister said between 250 and 290 police officers will be stationed along the border with France. (Deutsche Welle, Feb. 24)

TURKEY

Turkish opposition party leader defends against allegations by the government that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) is responsible for the attack in Ankara last week. (Hurriyet Daily News, Feb. 23)

Syrian refugees denied entry to Turkey; Amnesty International reports security forces shot and injured civilians attempting to cross the border. (Amnesty International, Feb. 19)

Turkey is not optimistic, but welcomes the Syria ceasefire; could continue to shell Kurdish YPG forces in Northern Syria. (Hurriyet Daily News, Feb. 23)

“How can we trust [you]? Is it me who is your partner or the terrorists in Kobani?” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after top U.S. official special envoy Brett McGurk visited Kurdish YPG forces in the Syrian border town of Kobane. (VOA News, Feb. 22)

OPINION

“[The people on the island of Lesbos] have allowed their island to be overturned because they recognize the compelling humanitarian need to receive these people. They are the people who give me hope,” Michael O’Flaherty said to Deutsche-Welle. O’Flaherty, the new director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, is concerned about the state of human rights in Europe citing the migrant crisis, nationalist movements and increasing government surveillance. He remains optimistic, however, about Europe’s commitment to human rights. (Deutsche Welle, Feb. 24)

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