Greece + 12 more

Winter Operations Cell (Updated March 9, 2016 12:39 PM)

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Arrivals and Departures

The Government of Slovenia informed UNHCR and all humanitarian partners that, as of 8 March at midnight, authorities will fully implement the provisions of the Schengen Borders Code, no longer allowing irregular transit. Authorities confirmed that people who intend to seek asylum in Slovenia will be allowed to do so by following the regular procedures. Regarding the EUTurkey plan, the State Secretary announced that authorities will admit 572 refugees in the first phase of redistribution and 863 in total. Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, underlined that the Balkan route will no longer be utilised; regardless of the summit conclusions being re-worded. The Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior stated that irregular travel will ‘slow down’ and that authorities will focus on relocation as per agreement with other EU Member States. Slovenia would accept on average 40-50 asylum seekers every two month. As Croatia is not part of the Schengen area, in line with these developments, Croatian Minister of Interior, Vlaho Orepic, stated that Croatia would apply new regulation at borders and only people with valid passports would be allowed across its borders.

Condition of People

In Germany, 67,797 asylum applications were filed to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in February 2016. This represents an increase of 160% compared to February 2015, and an increase of 23% compared to January 2016.

The Greek Asylum Service announced that EU member states have approved 766 relocation requests and offered a total of 2,000 relocation places. More than half of the people who lodged a relocation request are Syrian nationals.

According to the Greek authorities, more than 37,000 refugees and migrants are currently present in country.

Situation at border crossings

While media reports that refugees and migrants were not permitted entry to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since 7 March, UNHCR teams in Gevgelija provided assistance to 127 people arriving from Greece this week. It is estimated that 11,000 to 13,000 refugees and migrants are currently present in Eidomeni, Greece.

Critical Developments

In the Aegean Sea, NATO naval forces began patrols along the Turkish coast aimed at deterring human smuggling to Europe.

In reaction to the EU summit with Turkey, Donald Tusk highlighted that a "breakthrough (was made by) sending a very clear message that the days of irregular migration to Europe are over". Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, welcomed the proposals resulting from the EU-Turkey Summit and noted that the discussions provided solutions to reduce the numbers of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey. A subsequent summit of EU leaders with Turkey will take place on 17-18 March to formally agree on the proposals made during the European Council meeting with Turkey held on 7 March. While addressing the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, UNHCR Chief, Filippo Grandi reiterated the agency’s position regarding the need to respect refugee protection safeguards under international law.

In Izmir, Turkey, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras chaired the fourth Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu. Transport, trade, tourism and the refugee issue were exceptionally added to the agenda. Tsipras and Davutoğlu signed the previously announced readmission agreement, according to which people who do not qualify for international protection in Greece will be returned to Turkey.

Weather Headlines: A very unsettled spell of weather is expected to continue across much of the region through the next week. Waterlogged and muddy ground conditions in northern Greece are expected to persist or deteriorate further as more rain is forecast over the next few days. Spells of strong winds in the Aegean are likely to limit the number of arrivals to Greek Islands too.