The EU’s home affairs commissioner said on Monday that Turkey should “urgently” resume accepting hundreds of migrants from Greece, days before EU chiefs were due to hold talks in Ankara.
“I call on Turkey to urgently resume the return of migrants from Greece,” Ylva Johansson said during a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos, which hosts more than 8,000 asylum seekers.
EU chiefs Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey next Tuesday.
There are nearly 14,000 migrants housed on Lesbos and another four Aegean islands — Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros.
Speaking alongside Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi, Johansson pledged 275 million euros ($324 million) of EU money for new camps on all five islands.
She had earlier visited the construction site of the Samos camp, tweeting: “I listened and explained that the migration proposals are designed to Europeanise and help the situation.”
Mitarachi, who has said new migrant camps are expected to be completed on Samos by June, and on Kos and Leros by September, called on Turkey to accept 1,450 migrants whose asylum applications had been rejected.
The press conference was delayed by roughly 300 people demonstrating against the planned Lesbos camp, in a protest called by local governor Costas Moutzouris.
“The islanders will not allow the construction of permanent camps on Greek and European borders,” the governor said in a statement.
Moutzouris had also whipped up opposition to the new camp last year. An attempt by the government to force ahead with construction work had prompted days of riots and clashes with riot police.
Greece has toughened its migration policy since conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis came to power in 2019.
Border patrols have increased, asylum processes have been quickened and benefits have been slashed, even for refugees who are granted asylum.
Greece has also been accused by rights groups of repeatedly pushing back migrant boats in violation of international law.
Government officials have repeatedly denied the claims.
“We haven’t returned boats. We have prevented boats from entering European and Greek territory, but this is something allowed by the regulations,” Mitarachi told AFP in an interview earlier this month.
However, Johansson insisted on Monday that Greece “can do more” to investigate pushbacks.
European Council president Charles Michel on Sunday condemned the detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, urging the Russian authorities to free him after he was arrested at a Moscow airport.
“The detainment of Alexey Navalny upon arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him,” Michel wrote on Twitter.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell echoed the call for Navalny to be freed following his arrest, which came as the anti-corruption campaigner returned to Moscow for the first time since his poisoning in August.
“Russian authorities must respect Alexei Navalny’s rights and release him immediately. Politicisation of the judiciary is unacceptable,” Borrell tweeted.
Navalny, 44, had flown into to Moscow from Berlin, where he spent months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
Western experts concluded he was poisoned with Soviet-designed nerve toxin Novichok. The Kremlin denies any involvement in the attack.
Belgian Police briefly used water cannon to control several hundred rowdy protesters in central Brussels on Sunday after they ignored an official call for marches to be postponed following Tuesday’s bombings.
They invaded the Place de la Bourse as people paid tribute at a makeshift memorial for victims of last Tuesday’s deadly attacks.
Riot police intervened to try to restore order after the group confronted Muslim women in the crowds, made Nazi salutes and chanted.
The attacks at Brussels Airport and on the metro killed 28 people.
Amid fears of further attacks, officials wanted to give police the scope to focus on investigations which have widened to other countries, leading to the arrest of an Algerian in Italy and intelligence cooperation with Germany. Police carried out 13 new raids in Belgium itself.
Most of the protests were peaceful but white-helmeted riot police used the water cannon against a group of protesters, many of whom local media described as right-wing nationalists, who burst onto the square chanting and carrying banners denouncing Islamic State.
“It is highly inappropriate that protesters have disrupted the peaceful reflection at the Bourse (stock exchange). I strongly condemn these disturbances,” Prime Minister, Charles Michel said.
France’s Interior Minister has said that the capture of a suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, is “a major blow” to the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Europe.
Bernard Cazeneuve said that security forces had managed to “incapacitate several individuals who are clearly extremely dangerous and totally determined.”
France is seeking suspect Abdeslam’s extradition from Belgium.
He was wounded and arrested in a dramatic raid in Brussels on Friday, after four months on the run.
French President, Francois Hollande, said Abdeslam’s arrest was “an important moment.
“The battle against terrorism does not end tonight, even though this is a victory.
“We must catch all those who allowed, organised or facilitated these attacks and we realise that they are a lot more numerous than we thought earlier and had identified,” Mr Hollande told a news conference on Friday with Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel.
Abdeslam was believed to have masterminded the Paris attacks which killed 130 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The suspect, a 26-year-old French national born in Brussels, had lived in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital before the Paris attacks.
The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, says the decision to raise the terror alert level in Brussels to the highest level, was taken due to fears that there might be an attack there, like the one that happened in Paris.
Some of the attackers who killed 129 people in Paris lived in Brussels.
Leading suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is believed to have gone back to Belgium and a huge manhunt is underway.
The Brussels metro is closed till Sunday and people have been told to avoid crowds which include shopping centres and concerts.
The authorities have also recommended that large events, including football matches, be cancelled.
The Belgian government will review the security situation in Brussels on Sunday afternoon, Mr Michel added.
Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, had earlier told reporters that the country’s situation was ‘serious’, but ‘under control’, as he arrived for a special security cabinet meeting on Saturday.
Turkish police, nonetheless, said that they have arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent on suspicion that he scouted out sites in Paris.
The Belgian authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the attacks, which Islamic State said it carried out.
The French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, says European countries must ‘wake up’ to terror threats.
He spoke after it emerged that the suspected Belgian ringleader of the attacks had entered France undetected.
Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, has, however, defended Belgium’s security services amid claims the attacks were organised there.
The defence came as EU Interior Ministers are due to hold emergency talks.
The meeting in Brussels is expected to tighten checks at the external borders of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area.
French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said that the EU’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls, after it emerged the ringleader of the Paris attacks had managed to enter Europe unnoticed.
It was confirmed on Thursday that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin linked to a series of extremist plots in Europe over the past two years, had died in a police raid on an apartment in northern Paris on Wednesday.
As debate raged about the failings that had let Abaaoud slip through the net, Valls urged France’s neighbours to “play their role properly”, saying the whole Schengen system would be called into question if Europe does not take responsibility for its borders.
The Schengen system allows passport-free travel between 26 countries, but it has come under severe strain this year, as the continent struggles with its biggest migration crisis since World War II.
The President of France, Mr Francois Hollande has honoured three Americans and a Briton with France’s top honour, the legion d’honneur.
Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Briton’s Chris Norman, who foiled a suspected terror attack on a train on Friday, received their medals from Mr Hollande at a ceremony held at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday morning.
Mr Hollande pinned the medals on the chests of the four passengers at the ceremony in Paris on Monday morning.
Before the awards, he said: “We are here to honour four men who, thanks to their bravery, managed to save lives.
“In the name of France, I would like to thank you. The whole world admires your bravery. It should be an example to all of us and inspire us. You put your lives at risk in order to defend freedom”.
The passengers overpowered a suspected radical Islamist on a high-speed train bound for Paris.
Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel and the US Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, attended the ceremony, along with the head of the French rail firm, SNCF.
Two other unnamed passengers are also billed to receive the honour at a later date.
The Legion d’honneur was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.