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IMMIGRATION

Greece struggles with migrant crisis

Greek authorities are gearing up to send hundreds of failed asylum-seekers back to Turkey, which is racing to set up reception centres under a controversial EU deal.

Greece struggles with migrant crisis
Migrants walk in a street of Chios city, on Chios island, Greece, 01 April 2016. Photo: EPA/Stringer

Some 750 migrants are set to be sent back between Monday and Wednesday, Greek state news agency ANA said, the first wave of deportations under the much-criticised agreement struck last month.

All irregular migrants now face being sent back from the Greek islands to Turkey, as Europe grapples with its worst migration crisis since World War II.

Greece has been struggling to get the infrastructure in place under its side of the deal, which has been met with scepticism by EU members like Austria, while the United Nations argues it is illegal.

“Planning is in progress,” Yiorgos Kyritsis, spokesman for Greece's refugee coordination unit, told AFP.

ANA said the migrants would be sent back from the island of Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili, adding that EU border agency Frontex had chartered two Turkish leisure vessels for the operation.

There will be one Frontex agent onboard for every single migrant, ANA said. Kyritsis declined to comment on the report.

On the other side of the Aegean Sea, work is under way on a centre to host those sent back in the Turkish tourist resort of Cesme, town mayor Muhittin Dalgic said.

Another is being created in Dikili, opposite Lesbos, one of several Greek islands that has seen a massive influx of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Turkish media reports say the Turkish Red Crescent is also preparing to open a refugee camp with capacity for 5,000 people further inland in Manisa.

'Hell to hell'

The deal is the latest attempt to stem the number of people in search of a new life in Europe. More than a million migrants entered last year, and over 150,000 people have crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece in 2016.

For every Syrian refugee sent back under the deal, another Syrian refugee will be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with the numbers capped at 72,000.

“If they make me go back to Turkey I'll throw myself and my family into the sea,” said Mustafa, a Syrian waiting with his wife and children at the port of Chios island. “We went from hell to hell.”

“There are many things happening in Turkey right now that I don't like”

Austria's president Heinz Fischer said Saturday he was “sceptical” the deal would stop more migrants coming to Europe, voicing his concern about human rights abuses in Turkey.

“There are many things happening in Turkey right now that I don't like,” he told Austrian public radio O1.

The deal has also faced strong opposition from rights groups, and senior UN migration official Peter Sutherland said Saturday that the deal was “absolutely” illegal.

“Collective deportations without having regard to the individual rights of those who claim to be refugees are illegal,” he told BBC radio. “Their rights have to be absolutely protected where they are deported to — in other words Turkey.”

Amnesty International said this week that Turkey was not a “safe country” for refugees, reporting that Ankara was forcing around 100 Syrians to return to their war-torn country every day.

Turkey rejected the criticism, with the foreign ministry saying Saturday “the allegations do not reflect reality in any way”.

Migrants sent to Germany

As part of the same EU-Ankara deal, Turkey — which is hosting some 2.7 million refugees from neighbouring Syria — will on Monday begin sending a first batch of refugees directly to Germany.

Germany's interior ministry said most of the arrivals expected Monday would be families with children, putting the number in the “double-digit range”.

Hundreds of migrants continue to land in Greece every day despite the EU deal, and a Greek government source told AFP this week that some 400 Frontex police officers were expected to arrive over the weekend.

Fifty French riot police were arriving on Lesbos Saturday to help with the operation, with asylum experts to follow later in this week.

Clashes have also broken out at Greek facilities, and on Friday hundreds of migrants walked out of a registration centre on Chios following fresh violence, prompting a leading medical charity to pull out its staff.

Many of them headed to the port hoping to reach ships bound for the Greek mainland, but authorities rerouted the island ferry to another local harbour to prevent unauthorised boardings.

Over 52,000 refugees and migrants seeking to reach northern Europe are already stuck in Greece after Balkan states sealed their borders to stop the influx.

IMMIGRATION

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Austria's recent Migration & Integration report paints a detailed picture of who are the immigrants in the country, where they come from, the languages they speak at home and more.

MAP: Who are the foreigners in Austria?

More than a quarter of Austria’s population has a “migration background”, which, according to the statistics institute Statistik Austria, means that they have parents who both were born abroad, regardless of their own nationality or place of birth.

Though migration is a controversial topic for some, Statistik Austria made it clear that if not for it, the country would simply stop growing.

“Austria’s population is growing solely due to immigration. Without it, according to the population forecast, the number of inhabitants would fall back to the level of the 1950s in the long term”, says Statistik Austria’s director general Tobias Thomas.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Who are the foreigners in Austria?

Not every person with a migration background is considered a foreigner, though. Many of them have parents who were born abroad but naturalised Austrians before having children, or they themselves became Austrian citizens later on.

This is why despite 25.4 percent of the population having a “migration background”, the number of people with foreign nationalities is slightly lower at 17.7 percent.

So, who are these people? 

German is still the most common nationality among foreigners in Austria (218,347 people). But much had changed since 2015 (when there were 170,475 Germans).

The number of Romanians has almost doubled (from 73,374 to 140,454), bringing them to the second-largest foreigner community in Austria, behind German citizens.

In 2015, Turkish was the second-largest foreign nationality in Austria (there were 115,433), but they are now the fourth (with 117,944 people), behind German, Romanian, and Serbians (121,643).

They are helping Austria get younger

In Austria, most people without a migration background (36.2 percent) are between 40 to 64 years old. The share is also quite large among those with 65 or more years, reaching 21.8 percent.

When it comes to people with a migration background, most are between 40 to 64 years old (34.4 percent), followed closely by the 20 to 39-year-olds (33.5 percent), and then the children and adolescents until 19 years of age (22 percent). Only 10.2 percent of the people with a migration background are older than 65.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How does the Austrian pension system work?

Regarding nationalities, Austrians have an average age of 44.8, followed by Germans, who average 41.1. The youngest populations are the Afghani living in Austria (24.9 years old on average) and the Syrians (26.3).

Immigration helps keep the Austrian population younger. (Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash)

Language and education

People with a migration background living in Austria have a different educational profile than the population without a migration background, according to the Statistik Austria data.

They are more often represented in the lowest and highest educational segments and less often in the middle-skilled segment than the population without a migration background.

However, the educational level of immigrants is improving over time, on the one hand, due to increasing internal migration, also of higher educated people within the EU. On the other hand, as a result of the selective immigration policy toward third-country nationals by the Red-White-Red Card, the institution said.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

In 2021, 19.4 percent of the Austrian population had higher education, such as a university degree, and 10.9 percent had only mandatory primary schooling. Regarding foreigners, 29 percent had university-level education and 25.1 percent had completed only their primary school years.

When it comes to children and the language they speak, German was the first language of about 72 percent of the four and 5-year-old children in elementary educational institutions in Austria.

READ ALSO: Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

With just under six percent each, Turkish and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BKS) were the most common non-German first languages. Around two percent each spoke Romanian, Arabic or Albanian, followed by Hungarian (one percent).

Less than one percent each for Persian, Polish, Slovakian, English, Russian and Kurdish, respectively, as the first languages. Languages other than those mentioned were spoken by slightly more than five percent.

And who is naturalising Austrian?

Not all foreigners become Austrian, even if they have been in the country for decades. One of the reasons is that the process is expensive, but also because it requires applicants to give up their previous citizenship – something many are unwilling to do.

READ ALSO: Could Austria change the rules around citizenship?

According to the report, in 2021, most foreign citizens who naturalised Austrian were from Turkey originally (1,100), followed by Bosnia (921), Serbia (782), Afghanistan (545), and Syria (543).

More than one-third of the people naturalising Austrian last year were already born in Austria, and most of the naturalisations were of young people between 20 and 40 years old.

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