Refugee Crisis Escalates: Greece Pulls Ambassador to Austria; Macedonia Announces Border Controls; 15,000 Trapped in Greece
100,000 refugees have entered Greece since the beginning of the year compared to 5,000 a year ago.
Where can they go? On February 16, Austria announced it will take at most 80 a day. Just this week Macedonia reduced the number of refugees allowed to transit through its territory to about 1,000 a day.
At least 15,000 are trapped in Greece, a country without resources to deal with them. In response to the growing crisis, Greece Withdraws Ambassador to Austria.
Athens withdrew its ambassador to Austria on Thursday in a sign of the mounting acrimony between EU countries over the bloc's failed refugee policies, a fight that increasingly risks destroying the continent's passport-free travel zone.
In a statement announcing the decision, Greece's foreign ministry accused the Austrian government of taking unilateral action outside of EU rules and recent agreements by capping the number of asylum seekers that it would accept across its southern border.
The move by Vienna has angered several member states, particularly Germany, which believe it was a direct violation of principles agreed by Werner Faymann, Austria's chancellor, at recent EU summits.
While Vienna is capping the number of daily asylum applications it accepts at 80, it is freely allowing as many as 3,200 refugees a day to pass through Austria en route to Germany -- even after agreeing not to do so at the most recent EU summit.
Despite anger in Athens and Berlin, Vienna has hastily put together a group of EU and non-EU allies along the so-called "Western Balkans route", most of whom met in Vienna on Wednesday to agree policies that could constrict tens of thousands of refugees in Greece indefinitely. Neither Germany nor Greece was invited to the Vienna meeting.
The EU's migration chief, Dimitris Avramopoulos, warned on Thursday that the bloc had 10 days to improve the situation "or else there is risk the whole system will completely break down".
Even the French and the Belgians have engaged in verbal sparring after Belgium's decision to impose border controls on its frontier with France. Belgium is concerned it could face an influx of refugees due to an imminent move by the French authorities to clear part of Calais' so-called "jungle" migrant camp.
Mr Tsipras said Greece would block an agreement at a refugee summit on March 7 that "does not ringfence an obligatory sharing of the responsibility and burden [of the refugee issue] among the member states in a proportional way".
Whole System Broken Down
I don't need 10 days to report the obvious: The whole system has already broken down.
The biggest problem at the moment is actually Greece. By letting all refugees in, even though passages to the North are severed, Greece is the problem child, not Austria, nor Hungary, nor Macedonia.
At the expense of its own citizens, with money it dos not have, Greece bears the brunt of the refugee crisis. The smart thing for Greece to do would be to close its own border just as Hungary did.
Border Control Map
The above map is from the BBC on January 25. I added the blue anecdotes that show additional blockages since then.
- In 56 days, starting January first, 100,000 have entered Greece primarily from Turkey. That's 1,786 a day.
- As the temperatures climb, the count will rise if Greece does nothing to stop the flow.
- Macedonia reduced the number of refugees allowed to transit through its territory to about 1,000 a day.
- 15,000 are already trapped in Greece and that number will rise by at least 786 a day. In one month, that's another 23,580.
- If Germany refuses the pass through from Austria, the maximum flow would decline to 80 per day, and the trapped rate would rise from 786 a day to 1,706 per day (51,180 a month).
Not Broken Yet Thesis Recap
Don't worry. We are told the system is not broken yet. Greece says there's still 10 days to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, Greece has vowed to veto any solution that does not spread the refugees around, while Austria has called a summit of countries sympathetic to more blockages.