“The European management of migration / refugee flows. Recent developments” 14/10/2019

The 3rd session entitled “The European Management of Migration / Refugee Flows – Latest Developments” was successfully completed on October, 14th, 2019,  in the framework of the Training Seminar “The European Migration Management in the Eastern Mediterranean: EU, Greece and Turkey”. Coordinator of the seminar was Professor Yannis Valinakis, President of the European Center of Excellence Jean Monnet. The keynote speech was delivered by Mr. Koumoutsakos Georgios, Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection responsible for immigration policy.

The Deputy Minister underlined the geopolitical importance of Greece as a country of transit of migrant and refugee flows, while he also emphasized the need for EU co-operation on the issue of migration and refugee flows. This co-operation is essential as it serves the security interests of the EU and its Member States, therefore Greece as well. Presenting briefly the new government’s intentions on immigration policy, Mr. Koumoutsakos finished his speech with suggestions for more effective management of our borders. Indicatively, he pointed out the need to strengthen the second instance committees handling asylum requests and to define more clearly the vulnerability criteria for those in need of protection.

Mr. Georgios Markopouliotis, head of the European Union Delegation in Greece, began his speech with a brief overview of the Union’s objectives in the field of migration. The speaker focused on the strengthening of solidarity between Member States, which he emphasized as necessary for more efficient flow management and fight against traffickers’ tactics. As he has pointed out, this is a long-term and integrated effort that requires sustainable structures rather than ad hoc solutions.

Mr. Grigorios Apostolou, head of the Frontex Liaison Office in Greece, focused on the role of the Agency to coordinate operations at the Union’s external borders. In his speech, Mr. Apostolou delimited Frontex’s jurisdiction over that of the national authorities, outlined the measures taken after the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, and concluded that Frontex could work with third countries outside the Union with the aim of safeguarding the external borders.

The session continued with the speech of Mr. Dimitrios Pagidas, Head of the Athens Office of EASO, who in turn presented the contribution of the Office resulting to more efficient management of asylum procedures. According to Mr Pagidas, there is room for improvement in the process of implementation of a common asylum system, such as the harmonization of procedures and the encouragement of solidarity between states.

Last speaker, Ms. Emmanouela Tsapouli, the UNHCR representative, provided a clear picture of the current situation, including a large number of statistics in her presentation. Ms Tsapouli stressed the increasing trend of asylum requests in Greece since 2015, despite the gradual decrease in the number of refugees and migrants arriving. In conclusion, she presented the UNHCR’s proposals on the ongoing debate on the reform of the Common European Asylum System.

The session ended with participants discussing with the speakers and having the opportunity to ask for clarifications, express concerns and raise questions on the topic. The seminar was hosted at the European Public Law Agency (EPLO) conference hall in Plaka, Athens.

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