EU's Tusk to economic migrants: Don't even think of coming

ATHENS, Greece -- The European Union's leader chose the continent's main gateway for immigrants Thursday to bluntly warn economic migrants not to even think of coming to Europe, while promising to work for a solution to the more immediate problem of refugees.

See Full Article

"I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants, wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe," European Council President Donald Tusk said in Athens. "Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing. Greece, or any other European country, will no longer be a transit country."

While people seeking a better life are among the migrants building up in Greece, the majority of arrivals are refugees from war and persecution. They aim to leave financially wrecked Greece to seek asylum in a country that can offer them more, such as Germany or Sweden.

But a series of restrictions imposed by Austria and other countries -- first on economic migrants but most recently on refugees -- has created a huge bottleneck in Greece. While nearly 2,000 people arrive on Greek islands every day, Greece's northern neighbour Macedonia only allows a few hundred through, on a good day, and only Syrian and Iraqi nationals.

Tusk, who is touring countries worst affected by the mass movement of people through Europe, said the situation along the Western Balkan migration route is "really dramatic, and so we must act with determination to improve it."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called Thursday for sanctions on EU states that refuse to take in their share of the incoming refugees, and demanded that the practically dormant procedure for relocating refugees stranded in Greece to other members of the bloc should be drastically accelerated.

After his meeting with Tusk, Tsipras promised "dignified" living conditions for the more than 25,000 people -- mostly bona fide refugees -- trapped in Greece. But he insisted that the solution can only be temporary, and Greece will accept no more than its fair share of permanently resident refugees.

At least 10,000 men, women and children have been camped for days in pathetic conditions at the Idomeni border crossing with Macedonia. Protests have been frequent, and this week Macedonian police used tear gas and stun grenades to repel hundreds of Syrians and Iraqis who had torn down a border gate.

On Thursday, a group of frustrated migrants blocked a freight rail line at Idomeni in protest at Macedonia's refusal to let them in.

Macedonian authorities have said they will only let in as many people as the next country on the route, Serbia, takes. Greek police said that in the 24 hours to 6 a.m. Thursday, 500 people were allowed to cross.

Some of those, however, were then turned back by Macedonian authorities who said their papers were not in order. One man fainted after he was told to go back.

The migrants said Macedonia did not accept computer-generated stamps issued by the Greek police, and therefore they could not prove their identity documents are genuine.

Adnan Abdallah from Syria had waited to cross from Greece to Macedonia for three days, but when he finally was let through, he was turned back because the stamp on his refugee document is computer-generated.

"They say here (in Greece) everything is OK, but on the other side this is not acceptable," a frustrated Abdallah told The Associated Press.

Macedonian authorities, who had been letting in small groups of migrants Thursday morning, closed the border again after the railway protest.

In Athens, Tusk indicated that without full respect of controls on the external borders of Europe's passport-free Schengen area, Europe has no chance of resolving the crisis.

Tusk spoke after talks with Tsipras. Later Thursday, he will travel to Turkey, from where most migrants enter Europe on dangerous smugglers' boats. The EU is struggling to implement an agreement with Turkey that could reduce the flow.

"We must do everything we can for (the joint action plan) to succeed," he said. "This ultimately means that the high numbers we are still witnessing have to go down, and quickly so."

------

Becatoros reported from Idomeni, northern Greece.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Cheers! Birthday boy given $288 fine for dangerous Vancouver SkyTrain ride

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Most people are happy to reach another birthday, but at least one reveller who was out celebrating his 20th didn't seem to mind tempting mortality. Just after midnight on Dec. 9, Transit Police were notified of a man who was riding in between cars on a SkyTrain headed eastbound. Source
  • Toronto FC loses MLS Cup to Sounders in penalty kicks

    Canada News CBC News
    Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei came back to haunt his former team as the Sounders defeated Toronto 5-4 in a penalty shootout to win the MLS Cup and end a long, chilly Saturday night. It was 0-0 after regulation, with Frei keeping Seattle in the game with a marvellous save in extra time. Source
  • Rex Tillerson, top contender for secretary of State, is CEO with close ties to Russia

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump has found an accomplished American executive in Rex Tillerson, but one whose longstanding support for free trade, international law and an expansive U.S. presence in the Middle East largely doesn't fit with what Trump has pitched to supporters. Source
  • Italian President Sergio Mattarella vows quick fix to country's PM crisis

    World News CBC News
    Italian President Sergio Mattarella pledged on Saturday to act quickly to solve a government crisis prompted by Matteo Renzi's resignation as prime minister, with all major parties calling for elections as soon as possible. Before any vote can take place, however, Italy needs a new electoral law. Source
  • Crowded Nigerian church collapses, killing at least 60

    World News Toronto Sun
    LAGOS, Nigeria — The roof of a crowded church collapsed onto worshippers in southern Nigeria on Saturday, killing at least 60 people, witnesses and an official said. The Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom state, was still under construction and workers had been rushing to finish it in time for Saturday’s ceremony to ordain founder Akan Weeks as a bishop, congregants said. Source
  • Tanker rams into vehicles on Kenya road, killing more than 30

    World News Toronto Sun
    NAIROBI, Kenya — A tanker carrying chemical gas slammed into other vehicles and burst into flames on a major road in Kenya, killing more than 30 people and injuring 10, officials said Sunday. The vehicle lost control while going downhill on the road from the capital of Nairobi to Naivasha late Saturday, said Mwachi Pius Mwachi, the deputy director and communications officer for the National Disaster Management Unit. Source
  • 2 explosions outside Istanbul soccer stadium; 29 killed, 166 wounded [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    ISTANBUL — Two explosions struck Saturday night outside a major soccer stadium in Istanbul after fans had gone home, an attack that wounded at least 20 police officers, Turkish authorities said. One of the blasts was thought to be a car bomb and the second appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber. Source
  • Montreal cabbie, 77, struggles to retire as ride-sharing apps devalue taxi permits

    Canada News CTV News
    Canada’s aging cab drivers fear the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber will render their pricey government-issued operating permits worthless. Many are counting on selling them at a profit to provide a nest egg for retirement. Source
  • Montreal cabbie, 77, struggles to retire as ride-hailing apps devalue taxi permits

    Canada News CTV News
    Canada’s aging cab drivers fear the rise of ride-hailing apps like Uber will render their pricey government-issued operating permits worthless. Many are counting on selling them at a profit to provide a nest egg for retirement. Source
  • Over 30 killed after chemical gas tanker crashes in Kenya

    World News CBC News
    A tanker carrying chemical gas slammed into other vehicles and burst into flames on a major road in Kenya, killing more than 30 people and injuring 10, officials said Sunday. The vehicle lost control while going downhill on the road from the capital of Nairobi to Naivasha late Saturday, said Mwachi Pius Mwachi, the deputy director and communications officer for the National Disaster Management Unit. Source