Greece has reaffirmed its position by allowing the secondary movement of migrants and refugees, enabling them to travel through EU member states freely. Secondary movement is a continuation of travel to other EU countries for migrants and refugees after they initially arrive in another country, which is often Italy or Greece for migrants coming to the EU.
During a recent online session organized by the London School of Economics, Greek Migration Minister Notis Maracci described the secondary movement as an “old concept,” TheSchengen.com reports.
The issue has caused political tensions among other EU countries, which have reported introducing temporary border controls and controls in order to prevent migrants from Greece from entering their territory.
A joint letter by ministers from France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland sent to the European Commission earlier this month also addressed concerns about secondary moves allowed by Greece. The letter referred to a “rapid increase” in the number of refugees with Greek documents.
According to the letter, refugees are using family visits and tourism as an excuse to file asylum claims upon arrival.
The ministers’ letter noted, “We request that a decisive step be taken to immediately put an end to the blatant abuse of refugee travel documents.”
However, the Greek minister dismissed these concerns, saying that “Europe is a common space”.
“We are obligated to provide residence permits and travel documents for recognized refugees,” he said, noting that migrants are drawn to the higher salaries and benefits found in EU member states.
The issue of secondary movement is likely to become embroiled in further negotiations on EU asylum and immigration reforms, as lawmakers continue to sidestep solidarity issues.
“Solidarity among member states, as well as to prevent secondary movement, is the primary area in which we are failing today,” EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson said last month.
Stephen Meyer, an official from Germany’s interior minister, agreed with the commissioner stating that “sufficient priority should be given to preventing irregular secondary movements”.
These discussions come as Greece intends to secure its borders, return unwanted migrants, and prevent others from reaching the Aegean islands from Turkey and the land border region of Evros.
However, Amnesty International published a 46-page report this week, revealing new evidence of the mistreatment of refugees by Greek border forces.
“Our research shows that violent pushbacks have become de facto policy to control the Greek border in the Evros region,” said Adriana Tidona of Amnesty International in a statement.
Athens has come under increasing pressure over “returns” – an illegal procedure in which migrants and refugees are forced to return to Turkey. The report provided evidence of return incidents that took place from June to December 2020.
The NGO also accuses Turkey and Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, of adding several hundred guards in Greece.
According to a report published by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), about 66% of Syrian refugees do not plan to return to their home country.