Greece threatened with expulsion from Schengen over migration crisis

Refugees and migrants arrive aboard the passenger ferry Ariadne at the port of Piraeus, near Athens

European Union interior ministers on Monday urged Greece to do more to control the influx of migrants, some threatening to exclude it from the continent’s prized passport-free travel zone as the crisis increasingly divides the bloc’s members.

Greece was the main gateway to Europe for more than a million refugees and migrants who reached the EU last year. But it has been criticised for a failure to control the flow of arrivals, which have shown little sign of falling over the winter months.

The EU has taken various steps to give cash-strapped Athens financial assistance to deal with the crisis, but many member states believe Athens is not using that enough. Of five registration “hot spot” centres that were due to be set up for migrants arriving in Greece, only one is running so far.

Overwhelmed by the influx, Greek law enforcement officials have often let migrants through deeper into Europe rather than keep them on Greek soil for proper registration – the first necessary step agreed by the EU before people can move further.

Athens says the numbers are impossible to manage and blames the other 27 EU states for not offering real help. The crisis has put the passport-free Schengen zone – hailed by top EU officials as the greatest achievement of European integration – on the verge of collapse.

“If we cannot protect the external EU border, the Greek-Turkish border, then the Schengen external border will move towards central Europe,” said Austria’s Interior Minister Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

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