Turkey must ‘take responsibility’ for migrants, says Greece

Migrants rest on the Greek Mediterranean island of Lesbo after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey in a dinghy (File/AFP).
Updated 04 October 2019

Turkey must ‘take responsibility’ for migrants, says Greece

  • Turkey must ‘control the migrant flow in the Aegean Sea,’ the conservative Greek leader said
  • The UNHCR announced arrivals by sea from Turkey to Greece increased to over 10,000 in September

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday called on Turkey to “take responsibility” for a renewed wave of migrants to Greece, and for an EU-Turkish deal to be revised so Athens can speed up the return of rejected asylum-seekers.
“Turkey must take responsibility” and “control the migrant flow in the Aegean Sea,” the conservative Greek leader said during a debate in parliament on migration.
Greece has felt under increasing pressure. For the first time since 2016, the country has become the main port of entry into the European Union for migrants and refugees arriving via Turkish shores.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) announced on Tuesday that arrivals by sea from Turkey to Greece, mostly Afghan and Syrian families, increased to 10,258 in September.
It said this was the highest monthly total since 2016, when the European Union reached an accord with Turkey to stem the flow of arrivals.
Turkey has welcomed nearly 3.6 million refugees, the vast majority from neighboring war-ravaged Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened in early September to allow a new wave of migrants to go to the EU if he did not receive more international aid.
Ankara wants to create in Syria a “security zone” so migrants could return there.
But after a deadly fire at an overcrowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sept. 29, Athens vowed to return 10,000 migrants who fail asylum requirements to Turkey by the end of 2020.
In four and a half years under the previous left-wing government, Turkey took back fewer than 2,000 people.
Necessary revisions to the EU-Turkey deal to accelerate returns will be discussed at the EU summit later this month.
Mitsotakis insists that most new arrivals to Greece are “economic migrants” from Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa rather than refugees from Syria.


Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

Updated 14 August 2020

Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

  • As foreign visitors remain barred from entering the country, government plans to boost domestic tourism to keep hospitality sector afloat
  • COVID-19 has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to national revenue

JAKARTA: Indonesia will remain closed to foreign tourists at least until the end of the year, a senior minister announced during a meeting with the country’s business community on Thursday. 
As Indonesia still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said that all non-essential foreign visitors will remain barred from entering the country, while the government will try to boost domestic tourism to keep the hospitality sector afloat. 
“With regard to foreign tourists, I think we will not be welcoming them until the end of the year,” Pandjaitan said during the virtual forum with Indonesian businesspeople, shelving a plan laid out by the provincial government of the holiday island of Bali — Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination — to reopen for international visitors on Sept. 11. 
Pandjaitan’s remarks also ended speculation as to whether the central government would revoke a regulation issued by the justice minister in late March banning foreigners — except those arriving for essential, diplomatic and official purposes — from entering Indonesia amid ongoing efforts to contain the virus outbreak. 
Bali authorities were hoping for the regulation to be revoked ahead of the island’s plan to reopen to foreigners.  
Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said industry players in Bali were ready for the Sept. 11 plan but acknowledged that the central government’s decision to keep foreign arrivals suspended “must be based on a more urgent reason.” 
“There could be a macro outlook behind Jakarta’s decision, and it could be for everyone’s greater good,” Adnyana told Arab News. 
According to Pandjaitan, Indonesian authorities will focus on promoting domestic tourism as Indonesians who were planning to go for holidays abroad, including those who were set to travel for Umrah, will be unable to do so this year so due to international travel restrictions.  
“There is plenty of money around. No one is going on the Umrah pilgrimage, and those who used to go to Singapore or Penang for medical treatment are not going anywhere either. These are people with money to spend, and we estimated there could be tens of trillions of rupiahs. We want them to spend the money here,” Pandjaitan said. 
According to Umrah tour operators, about 1 million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage each year, with many of them also visiting other sites in the region. 
The COVID-19 outbreak has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to its national revenue. 
According to Adnyana, tourism in Bali alone contributed 120 trillion to 150 trillion rupiahs ($10 billion) a year to the country’s coffers. 
He also expressed concerns that the pandemic may still affect the government’s plans to revive the industry through domestic tourism as many potential travelers may be unable to make trips to other parts of the country amid concerns of contracting the disease and internal restrictions imposed as part of the response to contain the virus.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo said in his 2021 budget speech before the parliament that 14.4 trillion rupiahs would be allocated for the tourism industry’s recovery with a focus on developing several main destinations: Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Mandalika in Lombok island; Labuan Bajo on the Flores island, which serves as a gateway to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island and Mount Kelimutu, which has three volcanic crater lakes of different colors; and Likupang Beach in North Sulawesi.