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President of Hellenic Republic Briefed on Immigration Agenda

Pavlopoulos - Papoulias(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The course of Greece’s migration policy was the topic of discussion between President Karolos Papoulias and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Addressing the press, the minister mentioned that Greece “has played a decisive role in drafting the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum as well as in the evolution of Frontex –an agency monitoring EU’s external boarders-, which is now conducting operations in the Eastern Mediterranean all-year-round”. The minister also stressed that Turkey’s obligation to fulfill the terms of its bilateral agreement with Greece on illegal migration has now become an obligation of European-wide dimensions, paving the way for the signing of an EU-Turkey readmission agreement by the end of 2009.   Greek News Agenda: Immigration Agenda 2010-2014

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EU Support for Tacling Immigration

council2(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) At the end of the two-day European Union summit (June 18-19), Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis took the opportunity to express satisfaction over the course of the leaders’ deliberations on a series of issues which are important to Greece’s national security.  Regarding the thorny issue of illegal migration, Karamanlis stressed that Greece’s diplomatic demarche to convince the EU over the perplexity of the issue, the ramifications of which go beyond Greece’s reach, have started to bear fruits.  Together with Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus, Greece sought the European Union’s support to cope with the rising tide of illegal immigration.  The Council agreed that the European Union shall seek new repatriation agreements with the migrants’ countries of origin and with transit countries such as Turkey and Libya. Existing bilateral repatriation agreements such as the one signed by Greece and Turkey in 2003, should be honoured, EU leaders agreed. According to the summit’s communiqué, the Council decided to reinforce its border monitoring agency Frontex The global economic crisis once again topped the agenda, with deliberations resulting in a number of decisions towards building a new financial supervisory architecture and taking measures to tackle unemployment. Climate change, a matter of increasing importance was also discussed, in view of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference at the end of the year. Finally, Karamanlis welcomed Jose Manuel Barroso’s appointment to serve a second five-year term as president of the European Commission, pointing out that the incumbent president has given Greece valuable support on a number of issues.

Illegal Immigration: A Commmon EU Issue

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis stressed the need for immediate joint action by European countries to combat illegal immigration as he emerged from a European People’s Party (EPP) summit held in Brussels on Thursday: “It is an issue of European dimensions, which doesn’t concern only those countries that are directly affected and are now having to shoulder the greatest burden,” he emphasised. The two-day works of the European Council meeting under Czech Presidency in Brussels (18 – 19 June), attended by Prime Minister Karamanlis, center on Barroso’s second term as President of the European Commission, the global financial crisis, global warming and illegal immigration. The European Council has agreed to examine illegal immigration following the requests of Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. According to the last outcome of the European Council , the 27 leaders have underlined that an effective European response based on solidarity and distribution of responsibilities are necessary to combat illegal immigration.

Greece: Migration, a Top Priority

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Being a border region of Europe, Greece has being experiencing a migration influx from both land and sea. The figures speak for themselves: 150,000 immigrants were arrested in Greece in 2008, while arrests of traffickers in illegal immigration increased by more than 40% within the last two years. Faced with the intricacy of the situation and in accordance with its 2009 national programme on migration, Greece first accelerates absorption rates of EU funds earmarked for relevant purposes. In addition, red tape on residence permits is cut down, while in 2008, some 9,000 individuals were granted Greek nationality. Moreover, through a special programme (“Aeneas”), Greece creates comprehensive partnerships with the countries of origin and of transit to ensure the return of the illegal immigrants and progressively establish synergies between migration and development.

» Collaborating with the EU

The guidelines for all the above actions are provided by the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, to which Greece adheres fully. Asylum tops the list of issues to be considered. A European legislative framework of reference is imperative. Greece abides by international law and secures the right of every foreign immigrant individually to apply for asylum. (Some 25,000 applied in 2007). Creating a favourable environment for those granted access is equally important, always in measure of each country’s reception capacity. However, before facing the necessity to deal with immigration, it is in every member state’s interest to contain the phenomenon altogether. External boarders should be policed at all times and trafficking cracked down. Countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus should be endowed with supplementary resources. The European Union must intensify its cooperation with non EU transit countries implicated and prove more decisive when the latter do not cooperate despite the subsidy received with EU funds.

Migration Front Line

GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has penned an article titled: “The migration front line,” in the daily “Guardian” (21.1.2009) on the issue of migration. Pavlopoulos acknowledges the problem of illegal immigration for both Greece and Europe, especially in these times of economic stress, as well as the necessity for co-ordinated action. Pavlopoulos mentions the specific measures the state has taken in order to cope with the increasing number of illegal immigrants entering Greece, i.e. the establishment of reception centres complying with UN specifications, the adherence of Greek legislation with the Geneva convention and other international treaties regarding asylum seekers and the “rational planning” of immigration policy. Furthermore, the minister stresses the need for closer collaboration with the European Union, focusing on the implementation of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. This entails the operation of Frontex, the right of immigrants to be treated on a case-by-case basis under international law, upgrading of living standards, and other requirements. Finally, Pavlopoulos refers to the selection of Athens as the venue for the Global Forum on Migration and Development, in November 2009.

Illegal Immigration Population in Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Hellenic Migration Policy Institute: “Estimate of the illegal immigrant population in Greece This paper calculates the number of illegal immigrants in Greece based on the Number of Foreign Students, on arrest and Deportation Data, on the Estimates of Immigrant Associations, on the Estimates of Local Authorities, as well as the Estimates of the Hellenic Police Force. There is now an extensive bibliography on modern immigration to Greece, which covers a broad range of problems relating to the inflow of large numbers of illegal immigrants after 1990, part of whom have become legal. However, limited efforts have been made to estimate the illegal immigrant populations existing in the country. The only safe estimates available as to the number of immigrants are those deriving from the three legalisation schemes and the 2001 census. During the 2001 census, 672,191 immigrants were in Greece (including those legalized under the 1998 legalisation scheme and those illegally staying in the country). 367,860 illegal immigrants applied for status in the legalisation scheme of 2001, but only 217,000 qualified for residence and employment permits. In the third legalisation scheme of year 2005, there were 145,000 applications, far below those of the two previous schemes. As a result of the three legalisation schemes carried out, a total of 604,215 valid residence and employment permits were granted to immigrants in Greece in 2005 and 695,979 permits in 2006. However, these data do not provide an accurate estimate of the illegal immigrant population, given that it remains unknown. The Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (www.imepo.gr)’s mission is to research and understand the phenomenon of migration and conduct studies, which contribute to the design and implementation of Greece’s  immigration policy. 

FRONTEX Guards the EU Borders

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Anastasis Papaligouras recently signed a declaration for the supply of equipment with the European agency  Frontex – an EU body created to coordinate the operational cooperation between member-states in the field of border security – to curb illegal immigration into Europe. The effective handling of illegal migration is a particular concern to the EU and, of course, to Greece, whose national borders are also Schengen area borders in their entirety and EU external limits for the most part. The need for action becomes more urging since, lately, increased illegal migrant flows have been observed at the country’s eastern – land and maritime – borders. Greece participates actively in shaping a common European Surveillance System (EUROSUR) for all external land and maritime borders, in building the European Patrol Network, as well as in promoting the creation of a European Coast Guard, which was a Greek initiative. Frontex executive director Ikka Laitinen said that Greece was doing what it should but was faced with an exceptionally difficult task that had to be carried out in a difficult area and a difficult environment. Athens News Agency: Greece signs deal with Frontex; Hellenic Migration Policy Institute: www.imepo.gr & Statistical Data on Immigrants in Greece; Migrants in Greece: www.migrantsingreece.org; European Commission: Towards a Common Immigration Policy & A maritime Policy for the EU