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Migrants on Greek Islands are offered 2000 euros to leave Greece voluntary

Migrants on the Greek islands are to be offered €2,000 (£1,764) per person to go home under a voluntary scheme launched by the European Union in an attempt to ease desperate conditions in camps.

The amount is more than five times the usual sum offered to migrants to help them rebuild their lives in their country of origin, under voluntary returns programmes run by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Migrant crises on Turkish borders

The EU  in turn pledged a €700 million support package to Greece, to help the country deal with growing migratory pressures at its borders, as migrants, many of whom are from Syria, attempt to get into Europe.

An escalation in violence in Idlib, Syria, has sent a surge of refugees across the border to Turkey, which now holds four million Syrian civilians.

The EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell spoke alongside his Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlić-Radman at a press briefing, following a Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Syria, held in Croatia.

Turkish migrant crisis

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday will pledge “all necessary measures” to prevent illegal crossings into the bloc’s external borders, according to a draft of their conclusions seen by Kathimerini, which also calls upon Turkey to abide by the terms of a 2016 deal to stem flows in the Aegean.

“Illegal crossings will not be tolerated. The EU and its member states will take all necessary measures to prevent this from happening and urge migrants not to endanger their lives by attempting illegal crossings by land or sea,” the draft said.

“The Council expresses its strong solidarity with Greece and other member states which might be similarly affected,” it said adding that ministers will meet again on March 13 to further develop the EU’s response to needs expressed by Athens.

“All member states, the European Commission and EU agencies stand ready to strengthen their support to regions under pressure, in particular though the deployment of Frontex’s rapid border intervention,” the draft said while calling upon all actors and organizations on the ground to counter the dissemination of false information.

According to the draft, the Council also urges Turkey “to fully implement the provisions of the 2016 joint statement and to refrain from actions which endanger human lives.”

“The EU will continue to assist those communities in Turkey in the context of the conflict in Syria and expects Turkey to keep its commitments under the statement

Problems with migrants on Greek border

Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission, was speaking as migrants mass at the Greek-Turkey border.

 

Thousands have headed for the European Union after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he could no longer stop refugees leaving Turkey.

But there have been reports of violence at the Greek-Turkish border.

On Wednesday, Turkey claimed a migrant was killed by gunfire while crossing into Greece. Greek officials strongly denied the accusation

The Shengen Agreement will not be suspended

European Union is not planning to suspend the Schengen Agreement, not even partially, despite the Coronavirus outbreak all over Europe now, with a number of about 280 persons touched by the virus in Italy alone.

The EU officials believe reintroducing border checks will not contribute anyhow to the slowdown of the virus spreading in Europe, but it would instead turn the countries into “lazarettos” as the Italian Primer said when asked whether Italy would shut down borders as a prevention measure.

Suspend Schengen? But what do we want to make of Italy, a lazaretto?!” he sarcastically told journalists on Monday during a press conference.

This is a draconian measure that does not meet the needs of Italian citizens in the field of containment of infection,” he added, regarding the suspension of the Schengen Agreement.

So far, new cases have been detected in Croatia, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria, today only. Despite that the latter had warned it would consider reintroducing border checks with Italy, instead, they have only tightened airport border controls.

The Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz announced that Austria would introduce more strict controls, which did not amount to the reintroduction of border checks.

As far as the borders and cross-border traffic are concerned, we will proceed as follows: we will further tighten warning systems with our neighbours; [and] we will immediately order a stop in the event of suspected cases, as happened last night,” Kurz said on Monday.

Whereas in a meeting held by the EU Commission in a bid to boost global preparedness, prevention and containment of the virus, the Commission decided to allocate an amount of €232 million, in this regard.

As cases continue to rise, public health is the number one priority. Whether it be boosting preparedness in Europe, in China or elsewhere, the international community must work together. Europe is here to play a leading role,” Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission said upon the meeting.

Whereas the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management and European Emergency Response Coordinator Janez Lenarčič said the aid package will support the World Health Organisation and target funding to ensure countries with weaker health systems are not left behind.

“Our goal is to contain the outbreak at a global level,” he said.

In the last four days, the number of people detected containing the Coronavirus in Italy has gone over 280. So far, seven cases have resulted in death, all of them elderly persons.

So far, ten towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto are under lockdown, with some 50,000 residents prohibited from leaving. Regional authorities have ordered gathering spots, such as bars, restaurants and discos to close.