Greece calls on EU for fairer distribution of migrants

Migrants, trying to reach Greece, are rescued by members of the Greek Coast guard and locals near the coast of the southeastern island of Rhodes. (Reuters)
Updated 12 August 2019

Greece calls on EU for fairer distribution of migrants

  • On five Aegean islands close to Turkey — Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros — the total number of refugees and migrants has exceeded 20,000
  • Lesbos alone, the main port of arrival during the 2015 migrant crisis, had seen an increase of 44 percent compared with the same period last year

ATHENS: Greece on Monday called on the EU for a fairer sharing of the migrant burden amid deep concern over a sharp increase in arrivals on some islands in recent weeks.
“Since July 7, there has not been a single day without arrivals,” deputy minister for citizen protection Giorgios Koumoutsakos told the daily Kathimerini in an interview.
On five Aegean islands close to Turkey — Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros — “the total number of refugees and migrants has exceeded 20,000,” said the minister, who is responsible for migration policy in Greece’s new conservative government.
“This constitutes an increase of 17 percent in a few weeks.”
Lesbos alone, the main port of arrival during the 2015 migrant crisis, had seen an increase of 44 percent compared with the same period last year, the minister continued.
“August 9 was one of the worst days during the summer period for Lesbos, as six boats with 250 people arrived,” he said.
Koumoutsakos said that a new “corridor” had been created by traffickers between the island of Samothraki and the northestern town of Alexandroupoli on the mainland, near the border with Turkey.
For Greece, a “front-line country... which also serves as part of EU’s external border,” the issue of migratory and refugee flows was “a very difficult equation,” he said.
Greece had “exhausted its capacity on this issue (and) is looking forward to efficient cooperation with the European Commission and the member states,” the minister said.
Koutmoutsakos called for a “successful implementation” of the deal agreed between the EU and Turkey in 2016 to reduce crossings of the Aegean Sea, which constituted “a challenge and a gamble also for Europe.”
He welcomed the fact that the EU Commission’s incoming president, Germany’s Ursula van der Leyen, had “set the migration issue very high in her list of priorities.”
He also said he hoped that agreement would soon be reached on a reform of Europe’s asylum system “on the basis of genuine and concrete solidarity.”
Until then, “Greece is looking forward to transitional European mechanisms, on the one hand, for a fairer sharing of the burden, and on the other, for a more effective return policy toward third countries,” Koumoutsakos said.
In 2018, more applications were submitted on Lesbos and Samos than in Austria and Finland respectively, Koumoutsakos noted, adding that during the first half of this year alone, there had been 30,500 new applications.

Korea test-fires ‘super-large multiple rocket launcher'

Updated 25 August 2019

Korea test-fires ‘super-large multiple rocket launcher'

  • Kim likes testing missiles, says US president
  • Denuclearization talks in trouble

SEOUL: North Korea test-fired a new type of multiple rocket launch system late Saturday into the sea off its east coast, state media reported.

It was the seventh test in a month, as negotiations to scrap the North’s nuclear arsenal flounder.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday that the latest weapons’ test was on a newly developed “super-large multiple rocket launcher.”

The country’s leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test and called the device a “great weapon.”

North Korea must step up its development of strategic and tactical weapons to counter the “ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of hostile forces,” KCNA reported Kim as saying while he oversaw the testing.

One of the short-range weapons has been identified as a KN-23, a mobile short-range ballistic missile based on the technology of Russia’s Iskander missile, which could hit targets across the South after evading missile interceptors operated by South Korea’s military. Pyongyang maintains that joint South Korea-US military drills are a provocation.

South Korea officials urged the North to stop hostile acts.

“We express strong concern that the North continues to test-fire short-range projectiles despite the South Korea-US military drills ending,” a presidential spokesman told reporters on Saturday. “We urge the North to halt such hostile acts that raise military tensions.”

Despite worries about the North’s provocations that could harm the security of South Korea where 28,500 US armed forces personnel are stationed, US President Donald Trump again touted his friendship with Kim.

“Kim Jong-un has been pretty straight with me, I think, and we’re going to see what’s going on, we’re going to see what’s happening,” he told reporters in Washington before heading to the G-7 summit in France on Friday night. “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short-range missiles.”

Trump and Kim held a surprise meeting in the Demilitarized Zone in June and agreed to resume working-level denuclearization negotiations within a month, but such a meeting has yet to be held.

In a further sign that nuclear disarmament talks are barely holding together, the North blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for complicating the talks, calling him a “diehard toxin.”

“He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and skeptical as to where we can solve any problem with such a guy,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said on Friday in a statement carried by KCNA, referring to Pompeo’s recent remarks in which he said sanctions would be kept until the North took concrete steps to bin nuclear weapons.

US Special Representative Stephen Biegun for North Korea was in Seoul last week to discuss ways to get negotiations back on track but it is not clear if he contacted his North Korean counterpart.

Biegun’s efforts were overshadowed by South Korea’s surprising decision to sever military ties with Japan. 

On Thursday, the presidential Blue House announced it would pull out of an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, a key pillar of the US-led trilateral alliance in East Asia to check the influence of China and Russia.

The intelligence pact, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), has benefited South Korea’s military to collect key information on North Korean nuclear and missile activities, as Japan operates seven spy satellites while South Korea has no such strategic assets.

The decision to end GSOMIA came amid escalating trade disputes over Japan’s restriction of exporting chip-making materials to South Korea following disputes arising from Japanese colonial rule.