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EU discord deepens refugee crisis

EU President Donald Tusk’s stark warning to economic migrants not to come to Europe because it will not welcome them anymore, reflects the deepening refugee crisis in Europe, where some states have been restricting their borders to stem the influx of refugees.
“I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe,” Tusk told a press conference in Athens after talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing.” But the point is: Will the potential economic migrants heed his call? These desperate illegal migrants have nothing to lose anyway. Since they take perilous journeys to reach shores of Europe, the economic migrants would not fear or even take the warnings seriously. Worse still, even the threats of deportation will not work as the migrants may risk again and again reaching Europe at any cost. Sadly, to many of them it is do or die.
Tusk’s warning follows the EU’s unveiling of a 700-million euro ($761-million) emergency aid plan to help Greece and other countries deal with Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. Given its geographic location, Greece has been receiving armies of refugees and illegal migrants seeking to enter Europe. But due to lack of capacity and economic burden posed by the influx of refugees, many EU countries restricted their borders, leaving Greece to bear its own cross. Felt being let down, Greece said it would demand the EU to impose sanctions on EU states that undermine joint decisions by the 28-member bloc.
Echoing Greek’s position, Tusk lashed out at the border controls, blasting them as “unilateral decisions” that are “detrimental to the Europe spirit of solidarity”.
The United Nations has warned of a looming humanitarian crisis as thousands of people remained stuck in miserable winter conditions on the Greece-Macedonia border after Balkans states and Austria capped the numbers arriving.
Unfazed by the EU warnings, Slovenia and Croatia, which are EU members, as well as Serbia and Macedonia, said they would each restrict the number of migrants allowed to enter their territory to only 580 per day. The caps on migrant arrivals have fuelled a bitter diplomatic row between Athens and Vienna and hand-wringing in Brussels. Greece accuses Austria of unleashing a domino effect of border restrictions along the migrant trail that has led to a bottleneck on Greek soil.
Austria, in return, accuses Greece of failing to properly police the bloc’s external borders and letting too many migrants continue their journey to northern Europe. The influx has boosted populist parties across Europe, bitterly divided the EU’s 28 member states and thrown the future of the cherished passport-free Schengen zone into doubt. The EU told Austria last week that limiting asylum claims was “plainly incompatible” with European laws and a European Commission legal opinion said it was illegal for countries to let asylum seekers transit through their territory.
Despite EU instructions, Slovenia said the new daily limit on migrant numbers was in line with a deal reached on February 18 between police chiefs of Austria, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. But Austria said no specific figure had been agreed upon at the meet and declared each country determined its own border policy. Though the EU says the crisis will not affect Schengen rules, there are signs that the EU’s passport-free zone may be affected by border controls. There is no single approach to handle the crisis. But engaging countries such as Turkey and Greece to help them police their borders and host some refugees who sneak into them is one of the solutions.

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