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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-03-31

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Refugee returns to Turkey will begin next week, minister tells ERT
  • [02] Migration minister fends off opposition anger over fast-track debate of migration bill

  • [01] Refugee returns to Turkey will begin next week, minister tells ERT

    The process of returning refugees to Turkey will begin next week, Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas said in an interview on an ERT state broadcasting organisation radio programme on Thursday. Vitsas once more called on the European Union to put pressure on Turkey so that it was also fully ready for the start of the return-resettlement process.

    "The process of returns is a great signal, which will end the matter of traffickers. It's a disincentive. The process of relocation from Greece - which is yet to start - keeps the expectations of all those wanting to travel to other countries high," he said.

    Vitsas added that the government will intensify efforts to persuade the migrants and refugees that are currently staying at the camps that have arisen at Piraeus port and Idomeni to move to more organised accommodation facilities, noting that this process must be completed within 15 days.

    He also referred to a need to "remove those elements that misinform for their own ends, either financial or ideological. You cannot have something going on under your feet that you can see is illegal and doesn't help the process," Vitsas noted.

    Commenting on the role of non-governmental organisations, the minister pointed out that the Greek government did not give money to the NGOs. "Money comes from the UNHCR and the programmes handled by the EU. The organisations that receive money in an official manner are certified organisations; those are the ones we collaborate with. There were also some 'organisations' that were self-financing - I am not talking here about volunteers and supporters, who are making a very great effort and contribute without profiting," he said.

    [02] Migration minister fends off opposition anger over fast-track debate of migration bill

    Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas defended the accelerated procedure used to approve a draft bill on migration which the government tabled in parliament on Thursday, saying they are required by the EU-Turkey deal.

    The bill incorporates EU law on asylum seekers and will allow the implementation of the recently signed EU-Turkey deal. It also introduces provisions for registering refugees, allowing them to find work and to qualify for international protection.

    Introducing the bill in the relevant parliamentary committees, Mouzalas cited the "constricting timeframe" for the short debate session, while SYRIZA rapporteur Ilias Kamateros said increased needs to handle asylum applications require that asylum services are improved quickly.

    Opposition parties slammed the procedure, with New Democracy rapporteur Vasilis Kikilias noting the "unacceptable tactic" used by the government to legislate, which cancels any good faith shown by the opposition. He said a 150-page bill is impossible to read and review in just one day. "You use the accelerated procedure when you know you have to submit 56 regulatory acts? You won't even be able to implement them in three years," Kikilias said. "You're destroying the country's structures. It goes without saying that we demand that it is not debated with an accelerated procedure," he added.

    Taking his turn, the rapporteur of the Democratic Coalition, Theodoros Papatheodorou, predicted that "in a year from now, nothing will be working".

    Golden Dawn rapporteur Yiannis Lagos wondered why the government doesn't want to allow the parliament to debate on the bill for five or six days.

    The Communist Party accused the government of using autocratic methods and described the bill as a "monstrosity" that violates international law and the Geneva Convention on refugees, while the rapporteur of Potami, Iason Fotilas, said the government is employing "authoritarian practices".

    "Time is the big enemy because this is a national issue," said Independent Greeks rapporteur Konstantinos Katsikis.

    "This [bill] empowers the minister to issue regulatory acts and I do not understand why it has to be tabled as an emergency procedure," said Giorgos Karras from the Centrists' Union.

    The bill will be sent to the plenum for a fast-track debate on Friday.

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