How to sever the Gordian Knot of immigration - Deportations-repatriations are keys - Part II

Ω Stavros Lygeros
How to break the Gordian Knot of immigration - Deportations-repatriations are keys - Part II, Stavros Lygeros

The assessment and clearance of asylum applications, the effective guarding of the border, and the strict control of NGOs, which we dealt with in my article yesterday, are a necessary but not a sufficient condition for breaking the “Gordian Knot” of immigration. In this article we will deal with additional measures that can radically change the picture.

Those who enter Greece illegally must be transferred to closed pre-departure centers until the application for asylum is considered and if it is rejected they must remain there until they are deported to Turkey, or repatriated. The centers were supposed to be on the islands if some of the immigrants wre to be taken back by Turkey, under the 2016 agreement.

This agreement is essentially dead and that is why it does not make sense for the Mitsotakis government to insist on the creation of huge centers, essentially cities, on the islands of the eastern Aegean. As Moria has shown these days, this is literally a suicidal move at the level of national security. Even if the government insists on not relocating the pre-departure centers to the mainland because the EU is reacting (fears that more and more people will cross the border and reach northern Europe) let them build them on isolated small islands far from Turkey .

In order to devalue such a solution, one argument claims that it will be an exile to deserted islands. The words may have an ideological charge due to the civil-war places of exile of supporters of the left, but in reality it is a completely different thing. If the asylum applications are judged in 2-3 months and then those who are not entitled are returned to Turkey or deported-repatriated (in the way I mention below) staying in closed centers on islets would take a few months. Consequently, the rhetoric of exile is either atavistic or conceals an intention of non-expulsion.

Voluntary repatriation

What will happen to those who are not entitled to asylum? The EU's financial incentives for voluntary repatriation have not yielded significant results and this was to be expected from the outset. The family of a typical economic migrant has typically spent a significant amount of money to finance their illegal immigration to Europe. The family of the economic immigrant is waiting for him to get a job and send back remittances.

Voluntary repatriation equates to a denial of expectations and, as a rule, to moral disrepute. It is a shame for an immigrant from a traditional (usually Muslim) society to return voluntarily. On the contrary, if he is deported, he has an excuse. Voluntary repatriation, then, will only work if the illegal immigrants are convinced by the facts that those who do not repatriate voluntarily will be deported.

European problem European approach

Without the cooperation of Turkey, the only solution is deportations, which will send the message to those from the countries of origin who plan to enter Europe that this is a "leap into the void". The immediate repatriation of those who are not entitled to asylum, however, can not be done only by Greece. The consulates of the countries of origin in Athens issue the necessary documents for deportations very sparingly.

First, because their governments are reluctant. Secondly, because the consular authorities here receive threats from the human trafficking rings to cooperate with them. Countries of origin prevent the repatriation of their own citizens, expecting remittances to be sent to their families in the future, which are an injection into local economies.

Greece does not have the power to pressure them, but the EU has the necessary political, diplomatic and economic clout to force them. Since the EU can impose economic sanctions on Russia for the Ukraine, it is a lack of political will and not an objective weakness to not exert pressure, including the threat of sanctions, on much weaker countries.

The process is simple. The lists of names to be deported from the member states will be sent by the EU to the governments of the countries of origin and from there the repatriation documents will be obtained. Then chartered planes will repatriate the illegal immigrants en masse.

The issue of repatriation is also raised for refugees. With the exception of people who are personally persecuted in their homeland for ideological, political, religious or other reasons, people who have left their homes because of a war are obliged to return there when the armed conflict stops. Why would the Syrians who were considered mass refugees due to the war not return to their homes today, given that with the exception of a few areas, there is peace in Syria today?

Obviously, those in Europe seek to stay and build a new life. This is humanly understandable, but it should not be accepted. They were given asylum for as long as they were in danger. Refugee status is not eternal. It lasts as long as the danger exists. If the refugee remains in the country of refuge even though he is not in danger in his homeland, then he becomes an economic immigrant.

What if the EU does nothing?

Many partners may have been comfortable, turning Greece into a "storehouse of souls" and Athens was comfortable shuffling the burden on the islands of the eastern Aegean. With the forced transfers of migrants to mainland Greece and the reactions of local communities, but also with the Moria-type incidents, the complacency of Athens is finished, despite Mitarakis' insistence on mortgaging national security for reasons we can only suspect.

Let us, as Greece, make sure that the complacency of the EU ends. The problem of illegal immigration is European and that is why it is necessary to establish a common European immigration policy, which will be endowed with sufficient resources and the necessary tools. In alliance with the other member states that are gateways, Greece must lead, because it is the country that bears the greatest burden. The margins of alliances, after all, are large.

But if the EU does not respond? Let us not forget that turning Greece into a "storehouse of souls" has to some extent reduced its problem. When it closed the Balkan corridor in 2016, in fact the EU put Northern Macedonia and Albania within its informal borders (in terms of immigration) and left Greece out!

The EU has shown no political will to act collectively and decisively, mainly because of its hypocrisy. There is, however, an additional factor. It is divided due to different ideological perceptions. The same division, after all, is observed in Greece. The difference is that while for other member states immigration is just a problem, for Greece it has become a nightmare.

So, if Turkey does not accept deportations and if the EU continues to burden Greece, Greece cannot afford to play by the rules imposed on it by others. Why should the security authorities prevent the passage of illegal immigrants to northern Europe? Why not let the circuits of domestic traffickers do their job undisturbed?

When the partners will see the arrival of illegal immigrants in their countries who have not been registered in Greece, then the problem will become theirs. And then they will probably change their attitude. But as long as they are comfortable with the situation, they have no reason to change it.

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