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  •  A migrant sits next to the riot police as other migrants block the railway track at the Greek-Macedonian border.

    A migrant sits next to the riot police as other migrants block the railway track at the Greek-Macedonian border. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 March 2016

Greece and Turkey discuss how to stop migrants entering Europe; EU leaders say closing borders is too expensive; Sweden passes discriminatory laws.   

Greek Party Leaders Hold Emergency Meeting as Migrants Increase

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held emergency talks with the country's party leaders on Friday to discuss Greece's national strategy ahead of a crucial EU-Turkey migration summit on Monday. 

EU and Ankara will struggle to find a consensus on how to stem the influx of migrants from Turkey to Greece's islands, a position Greece has vehemently supported as a solution to the increasing number of arrivals.
More than 1 million people reached Europe last year and some 133,000 have arrived on the continent so far in 2016, most of them on the short but perilous crossing from Turkey to Greece's north-eastern islands.

70,000 People Could Be Trapped in Greece in Coming Weeks, UN Warns

The United Nations called for a global response to the migrant crisis, warning that the number of refugees and migrants trapped in Greece due to border closures could reach 70,000 in the coming weeks. The move has driven several European Union and Western Balkan states to re-impose border controls.

"We have the erection of borders, razor wire fences in many instances, right up through the Balkans into Europe. The inevitable consequence of this is that Greece increasingly becomes a camp for refugees and migrants," the United Nations envoy for international migration Peter Sutherland told a news conference in Geneva. 

A least 30,000 people fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East and beyond are bottled up in Greece after Western Balkan states effectively closed their borders. Some 2,000 more are currently crossing the Aegean every day despite rough seas.

UNHCR Issues 6-Point Plan to Resolve Europe Refugee Crisis

The United Nations refugee agency proposed a six-point plan to European Union heads of state on Friday to resolve the migrant crisis, warning that the situation was quickly deteriorating in Greece where some 30,000 refugees are stuck.

The proposal includes setting up EU centers in each state to "take responsibility for all of Europe for registering people and distributing them under an agreed system," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a briefing in Geneva.

Europe Moves to Fix its Free Border Crisis by End of Year

In the meantime, the European Commission set out a timetable on Friday to restore the fraying 26-nation Schengen open border area by the end of the year. 

Seven Schengen countries including Germany have emergency border controls in place now and the Commission said it wanted them all lifted no later than December with an eye on fully restoring the partly-suspended area by the end of the year. 

The Commission warned that the estimated cost of fully imposing border controls inside the Schengen zone could cost the European Uninion 5 to 18 billion euros a year, with additional administrative and second-wave costs on top of that. 

Swedish Government Says to Cut Benefits for Refugees Denied Asylum

The Swedish center-left government said on Friday it would scrap payments of daily allowances to refugees who have had their asylum applications rejected in what was its latest attempt to curtail a record influx of immigrants.

Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers last year and the minority government has taken a number of steps to bring down the number of refugees to the Nordic country, such as border controls and abolishing permanent residencies as a norm.

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