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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-12-13

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government's economic team protests to IMF about Greek blog in first meeting with institutions
  • [02] Irish minister and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald visits refugee centres in Athens, Piraeus
  • [03] Asylum applications on islands can delays by up to seven months, says Greek NGO

  • [01] Government's economic team protests to IMF about Greek blog in first meeting with institutions

    The Greek government complained to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday about its handling of ongoing talks about the country's second program review, saying negotiations cannot be done through blogs, government sources said, after a three-hour-long meeting between the government's economic team with the institutions' mission chiefs in Athens.

    According to the same sources, the IMF responded that it didn't want to complicate the negotiations but to clarify its position.

    The Greek team referred to an article co-authored by IMF's Maurice Obstfeld, Economic Counsellor and Director of Research at the Fund, and Poul Thomsen, Director of the IMF's European Department, who denied that the IMF was demanding more austerity from Greece. They also ask that Greece legislates in advance measures for 2019 and 2020, which the Greek government doesn't accept.

    The aim of the new round of talks is to achieve a staff-level agreement in the coming days on most issues, including the 2018 budget, the sources said. The two sides also discussed the government's announced one-off benefits for low-income pensioners and the suspension of a VAT rise on the islands of the northeastern Aegean.

    [02] Irish minister and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald visits refugee centres in Athens, Piraeus

    Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday visited the refugee reception centres in the Athens district of Elaionas and in the Skaramangas district of Piraeus, accompanied by the Irish ambassador in Greece. In her visit to the centre in Skaramangas, she was also accompanied by Greece's Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas.

    Fitzgerald spoke with refugees and volunteers at the centres, hearing their concerns and their desire to reach a country where they can settle permanently and in safety. With Mouzalas, she also spoke with representatives of some 700 Yazidis living at the Skaramangas centre, including two Yazidi families from Iraq whose applications for relocation to France and Germany had been rejected.

    "Yazidis are under constant persecution and cannot return to their homeland," their representative said.

    In statements to the media, Fitzgerald said that Ireland will accept 1,200 refugees from Greece by the end of September 2017 under the relocation programme, thus meeting its obligation on a European level. She emphasised that European solidarity in managing refugee flows was essential, since it was impossible for a country to face such a huge influx unaided. She also praised the efforts of the Greek people to manage such a large number of people with complex needs.

    Mouzalas said the Irish minister's presence was a "active form of solidarity" and that they would discuss the possibilities for relocating refugees to Ireland. This was especially significant, he added, because Ireland was not currently obliged to accept relocation due to special conditions.

    The two minister additionally discussed the possibilities for programmes targeting asylum seekers not eligible for relocation, such as non-Syrian unaccompanied minors or Yazidis from Iraq.

    "They need special programmes and this is something that Europe needs to discuss at this time," Fitzgerald said.

    [03] Asylum applications on islands can delays by up to seven months, says Greek NGO

    Difficult access and long delays in processing asylum applications are the main findings in a report released by Greek NGO "Aitima" on Tuesday, which monitors the asylum procedures at both the mainland and the islands.

    The NGO said it visited asylum offices and refugee camps and spoke with officials and other organisations to collect its data.

    Concerning the situation on the mainland, the report says it found extremely limited possibility of lodging an asylum application at the regional asylum offices in person – and applicants were referred to the problematic process through Skype.

    "The delays in achieving full registration can last several months and consequently, there are delays until the examination of asylum, the family reunification and the relocation applications of refugees who stay in the camps, as a result of the authorities' decision to follow the pre-registration procedure," the report says.

    Concerning the situation on the islands, the NGO said delays in the registration of asylum claims can take up to seven months and there is an arbitrary prioritization of asylum cases based on nationality without taking into consideration the date the asylum seekers expressed their will to apply and, in many cases, their vulnerability.

    "There is huge information deficit, aggravated by the continuous changes of the procedures followed by the authorities, a lack of free legal assistance at first instance and a highly problematic provision of services to both the asylum seekers and lawyers," it said.

    "Aitima" also found problems with the appeal procedure for rejected asylum applications.

    "In most cases the procedure is based on the elements from the case file, without the presence of the appellant, which poses risks of inadequate examination of the appeals, particularly in the light of the aforementioned problems at 1st instance," it said.


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