• Austria's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Chaos as migration system 'close to collapse'
EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. Photo: European Commission

Chaos as migration system 'close to collapse'

The Local/AFP · 26 Feb 2016, 08:07

Published: 26 Feb 2016 08:07 GMT+01:00

Further chaos loomed as a French court approved the partial evacuation of the "Jungle" migrant camp near the port of Calais on the coast, a move that Belgium fears will send Britain-bound migrants coming its way.

Attempts by EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels to agree a unified response to the biggest migration crisis in the bloc's history frayed over the fact that many states are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.

The talks descended into acrimony over Austria's decision to freeze Greece out of a meeting earlier this week with Balkan states, at which they agreed steps that would effectively trap many asylum seekers on Greek territory.

Debt-stricken Greece -- the main landing point for most migrants arriving in Europe from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries -- faces huge pressure to stop "waving through" migrants to the rest of the EU.

The Greek foreign ministry hit out at what it called "19th-century" attitudes and said it was recalling its envoy from Vienna to "safeguard friendly relations between the states and peoples of Greece and Austria".

'Warehouse of souls'

Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas meanwhile said his country "will not accept becoming Europe's Lebanon, a warehouse of souls" -- referring to the huge number of Syrian refugees Lebanon has taken since 2011.

The migration crisis shows no signs of abating with 100,000 arriving in Europe so far this year on top of one million in 2015, with most of them coming via Turkey across the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the bloc's migration system could crumble if the number of migrants does not fall by the time EU leaders hold a crucial summit with Turkey in Brussels on March 7.

Europe's passport-free Schengen zone has been cracking under the pressure of several countries reintroducing border controls, while the EU system stipulating that refugees must claim asylum in their country of arrival is increasingly ignored.

"In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down," Avramopoulos said.

"The possibility of a humanitarian crisis is very real and very near."

Avramopoulos urged EU states to avoid "unilateral actions", such as recent caps on asylum seeker numbers brought in by Austria, which have left thousands of refugees stranded between member states.

But Austria and the Balkan states insist they need to act because the EU's plans are not working and Greece is not doing enough.

"If it is really the case that the Greek external border cannot be protected, can it be still a Schengen external border?" Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said.

Calais 'jungle' part-closed

In France, a court gave the green light to plans to evacuate hundreds of migrants from the notorious "Jungle" camp in Calais, a process the mayor said would take place over the next three weeks.

Many migrants want to stay near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, the gateway to their ultimate goal of Britain, and Calais town authorities said that no-one will be evacuated from the "Jungle" by force.

Belgium has decided to impose checks at the border with France to stop people coming from the Calais camp, a decision that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Thursday branded "strange".

Story continues below…

Meanwhile in northern Greece, hundreds of migrants and refugees left an accommodation camp to walk to the distant border with Macedonia, days after Skopje slashed the number of people it allows through each day.

"They are mainly youths... they do not want to wait for buses to pick them up... neither the army nor the police can stop them because there is the risk of (violence)," Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris said.

The European Commission said separately it failed to "understand" Hungary's decision to hold a referendum on mandatory quotas for refugees that the bloc agreed last year.

So far only 598 people have been relocated from frontline states Greece and Italy, out of a planned 160,000.

In a positive development, NATO on Thursday managed to overcome sharp differences between long-time rivals Greece and Turkey to finalise an unprecedented naval mission to tackle migrant smugglers in the Aegean.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local/AFP (news.austria@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
No work for Vienna’s fiaker horses during heatwaves
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

The Austrian parliament is set to pass a new law making it illegal for fiaker carriage horses to work in temperatures of 35C and above.

Firefighters rescue cat from car engine
Photo: FF Amstetten

Firemen were called out to help this trapped cat after a squeaking noise from the engine compartment was discovered to be a moggy in distress.

Two teens sexually assaulted at music festival
A picture from the festival in 2014. Photo: Luca Sartoni/Flickr

Two 15-year-old girls were reportedly sexually assaulted during Donauinselfest, an open-air, free music festival in Vienna.

Bank manager tied up and robbed in home invasion
The affluent Döbling district of Vienna. Photo: Gryffindor/wikimedia commons

It is the third burglary of this kind in Vienna this year...

Despite high unemployment restaurants can't find staff
File photo: David Mulder/Flickr

"Closed today - no staff but over 500,000 unemployed people. Sorry!" one frustrated restaurant owner wrote on a sign outside his business.

Austrian prisoners to receive condoms and lubricant
Photo: robertelyov/Flickr

'Safe sex packages' including an informative leaflet will be distributed to first-time prisoners.

US rapper appeals extradition from France
Photo: SwaGibbs/Wikimedia

Michael Malka, the lawyer for US rapper Freddie Gibbs, announced that his client will be appealing his extradition to Austria on charges of rape.

Manfred Deix, the man who captured Austria’s soul
Photo: A sample of the work of the late cartoonist

Famous Austrian Cartoonist Manfred Deix died in the hospital on Saturday after a long battle with severe illness.

Man dies while skinny-dipping with mistress
Photo: Stanislav Doronenko/Wikimedia

An Austrian man drowned during a skinny-dipping session with his mistress on Saturday, after jumping naked with her into a nearby lake.

Hofer: EU referendum for Austria if there are no reforms
Photo: Norbert Hofer/Facebook

Presidential candidate Norbert Hofer calls for an Austrian European Union referendum if there are no significant reforms in the next year, after Britain votes to leave the union.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
It's gonna be hot... here's how to cope
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
National
Europe's ice cream capital
Travel
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
National
How to make friends in Austria
National
Don't hesitate - break the window
Sport
Ready to watch some football? Here's how!
National
Cake rules
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Politics
Austria's choice for a new president
Politics
Profile on Norbert Hofer, Freedom Party Presidential Candidate
Politics
Austrian politics explained. TL;DR: worry not.
Features
Refugees need practical help
Lifestyle
All you need to know about Austrian Faschingskrapfen
Lifestyle
Why looking good on the ski slopes has never been easier
Lifestyle
Live in Austria? You might develop some of these weird habits
National
How 'Silent Night' rules the carol world
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
How a chance meeting on the slopes led to a new business
Lifestyle
What it means to be human
Technology
How a town became a green icon
Lifestyle
Why Austria has the world's best ski resort
Lifestyle
Let them eat cake!
2,468
jobs available