Greece threatened with Schengen expulsion
Austria and Sweden have threatened Greece with potential expulsion from Europe’s passport-free travel zone unless it does more to stem the refugee influx into the continent.
Austrian and Swedish Interior Ministers Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Anders Ygeman gave the warning during a meeting of their counterparts from elsewhere across the European Union in Amsterdam on Monday.
“If we cannot protect the external EU border, the Greek-Turkish border, then the Schengen external border will move towards central Europe,” said the Austrian official. “Greece must increase its resources as soon as possible and accept help.”
The Swedish minister said, “If a country doesn’t live up to its obligations, we will have to restrict its connections to the Schengen area.”
Greece served as the main entry point for more than a million refugees who reached the EU last year.
Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas denounced the threat of exclusion from the 26-member zone as “blame game” and accused other EU members of not equipping Athens toward tackling the crisis as well as they have pledged.
He said Greece’s border patrol units have only been reinforced by 800 European troops, while the country had been promised 1,800 and that it has received as few as six coastguard ships, despite having requested 28.
“It is very difficult to stop small boats coming… except [by] sinking or shooting them, which is against our European values and Greek values and we will not do that,” Mouzalas said.
Should Athens be kicked out of the Schengen zone, its borders with the rest of Europe would come under temporary controls for two years.
The current refugee crisis that Europe faces is the worst one being experienced by the continent since World War II.
Anti-refugee sentiments, incurred by the inrush, are meanwhile bubbling across the continent. Austria and Germany, which have displayed a rather open approach toward the arrivals, and the Netherlands witnessed protests over the issue on Monday.
In the Austrian capital, Vienna, anti-refugee protesters held a protest outside the parliament, voicing anger at the EU and the Austrian government’s refugee policies.
The supporters of the far-right anti-Islam and anti-refugee group PEGIDA, a German acronym that stands for the “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West,” rallied in the eastern Germany city of Dresden.
In southern Netherlands, protesters rallied in the town of Heesch in defiance of a ban on public demonstrations, raging against plans to set up a refugee center there.