Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark will warn today that Greece has six weeks to stop migrants crossing from Turkey or it will be “quarantined” outside the European Union’s borderless Schengen area.
A meeting of European interior ministers will discuss plans for Greece to be sealed off for two years behind a new EU external border in the Balkans.
Northern European countries are frustrated that Greece has opened only one of five refugee processing and detention centres it agreed to set up with EU help. “If the Athens government does not finally do more to secure the external borders then one must openly discuss Greece’s temporary exclusion from the Schengen zone,” Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Austria’s interior minister, told Welt am Sonntag. “It is a myth that the Greco-Turkish border cannot be controlled.”
Under plan B for the EU’s passport-free Schengen area, Europe’s external border would become Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary, staffed by EU border guards with powers to turn back migrants heading to Germany or Sweden.
“The easiest plan is to put Greece in sealed quarantine,” an EU diplomat said.
Asylum seekers not prepared to stay in Slovenia, Croatia or Hungary to have their asylum claims processed would be pushed back to Greece and Turkey.
With the help of armed EU border guards, Macedonia is building a 10ft razor-wire fence along its border with Greece.
To speed up the processing of migrants who make it through the Balkans, Germany is discussing proposals to set up centres along the frontier with Austria to speed up the repatriation of unsuccessful asylum seekers.
Thomas de Maiziere, Germany’s interior minister, said that police were turning away 200 of the 2000 migrants trying to enter Germany every day, usually people seeking asylum in Sweden, the Netherlands or Denmark.
“Anyone who doesn’t want to apply for political asylum in Germany and wants to enter Germany illegally has no right to be here,” he told Bild am Sonntag.
Austria has set a limit of 37,500 places for asylum seekers this year, which Mrs Mikl-Leitner expected to be reached in spring. “What we are experiencing has little to do with seeking protection but the search for the most attractive country,” she said. “We cannot go on like this.”
Figures issued by Frontex last weekend showed that tens of thousands of migrants arrived in Greece despite the bad weather. Last month 108,000 migrants were detected in Greece, down from 155,000 in November but still 40 times more than a year earlier.