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.

Campaigning for Sri Lanka presidential election ends

Updated 42 min 10 sec ago

Campaigning for Sri Lanka presidential election ends

COLOMBO: Campaigning for Sri Lanka’s Nov. 16 presidential elections came to an end on Wednesday.

Competition is tight between the United National Front’s (UNF) candidate, Sajith Premadasa, and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna.

Rajapaksa’s final rally took place in the town of Homagama on Wednesday evening, while Premadasa concluded his campaign in Colombo.

Thus far, 35 candidates have submitted their nominations, while two — Milroy Fernando and Dr. I.M. Illyas — have openly urged supporters to vote for Premadasa.

In comments to the media on Wednesday, Mahinda Deshapriya, chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, said all candidates have been requested to attend a special meeting on Thursday to be briefed about the electoral process, including the counting of votes and the announcement of results.

The commission urged the candidates not to partake in any promotional activities on social media.

It has received 3,729 complaints pertaining to vandalism and violation of laws, leading up to the elections, with 27 cases of violence reported. Additionally, 3,596 election law violations were reported.

To address these concerns, the commission is setting up complaints offices at the Elections Secretariat in Rajagiriya and all other district offices.

Ali Sabry, chief legal adviser to Gotabaya, told Arab News that a proven track record will propel Gotabaya to victory.

Sabry added that Gotabaya is taking credit for eliminating terrorism in Sri Lanka. Industry and Commerce Minister Rishath Bathiudeen, who was involved in Premadasa’s political campaign, told Arab News that he is hopeful about his candidate’s chances.

Bathiudeen, who is the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, said Premadasa would garner 95 percent of the Muslim vote and a majority of Tamil votes.

Azath Salley, leader of the National Unity Alliance, said: “The majority of the Tamil and Muslim communities are with … Premadasa.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, N. M. Amin, said this is the first time that incidents of election violence are few and far between.

Meanwhile, a group deployed by the Commonwealth to observe the presidential elections has called on stakeholders to demonstrate a commitment to a “peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive” poll.

The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) was invited by the Election Commission of Sri Lanka to observe the poll.

The COG will receive briefings from relevant stakeholders including election management officials, representatives of political parties, civil society groups, the police, members of the international community, citizens and international observers.

In a statement, COG Chair Prosper Bani said: “As independent observers, we will remain objective and impartial in discharging our duties. The Group’s assessment will be its own and not that of any Commonwealth member country. We hope that our group’s presence will support the strengthening of democracy in Sri Lanka.”