Border Crisis: European Union Says Greece Must Let Migrants Claim Asylum

migrants
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

The European Union has said that the Greek government must allow migrants to apply for asylum, despite its rhetorical support for their efforts to prevent the Turkish government from facilitating a wave of illegal migration into Greece.

Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, insisted: “Individuals in the European Union have the right to apply for asylum. This is in the treaty, this is in international law. This we can’t suspend.”

After Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Islamist president, announced the migrants would be free to pass through his country into Europe, Greece suspended migrants’ automatic right to claim and asylum, to allow border forces to turn illegal migrants back and prevent a 2015-style deluge.

The EU does not typically allow its member-states to take such decisions on their own, but Greek prime minister Kyriákos Mitsotákis claimed he had invoked a little-known emergency clause in the EU treaties to permit the move — a claim which has been disputed by anti-borders actors and now the EU itself.

“We are going to discuss actually what they are doing, but they have to let people apply for asylum,” said Commissioner Johansson — a Swede from the Scandinavian country’s Social Democrat party — in comments reported by the Guardian.

The left-wing newspaper suggested that the emergency clause Prime Minister Mitsotákis invoked cannot be used unless the European Union proposes it and all member-states agree — and Commissioner Johansson was clear that the bloc had no plans to suspend the right to claim asylum.

Indeed, the Swede favours “a mandatory solidarity mechanism” to tackle the Greek border crisis — i.e. a revival of the compulsory migrant redistribution quotas the EU tried to impose on its member-states following the 2015-16 influx.

These quotas, while partially implemented, foundered in the face of pro-borders, right-leaning governments in Poland, Hungary, and the rest of Central Europe.

These countries resented efforts to force them to absorb a share of the migration influx which, unlike the German and other Western European governments which voted for the quotas in the European Council, they had always opposed.

“We believe that a high number of Muslims necessarily leads to parallel societies,” said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán in 2018.

“Multiculturalism is just an illusion. We do not want that. And we will not have anything forced on us.”

While the Hungarian leader’s stance is now depicted as extreme by large sections of the media, it in fact closely resembles the position of Germany’s Angela Merkel in 2010, when she said that multiculturalism had “failed, utterly failed”.

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