Monday 11 December 2017

'Just 10 days left to save the Schengen zone from collapsing'

A Syrian woman cries as she talks to her relatives after her arrival on the island of Lesbos in Greece yesterday. Photo: AP
A Syrian woman cries as she talks to her relatives after her arrival on the island of Lesbos in Greece yesterday. Photo: AP

David Chazan and Matthew Holehouse

The 'Jungle' migrant camp in Calais can be bulldozed, a French court ruled yesterday as EU officials said there are just 10 days left to save the Schengen zone from collapse.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner, claimed Europe faces a "crash test" as he pleaded with countries to swing behind his faltering relocation scheme or see the Schengen system "completely break down".

In a major diplomatic rift, Greece yesterday withdrew its ambassador to Austria in response to Vienna's decision to exclude it from a meeting of Balkan states along the main migrant trail.

It came as a court ruled that the southern part of the rat-infested settlement of tents and wooden shacks in the French coastal town can be demolished, except for places of worship and a school.

The French government says the removal of up to 1,000 migrants intent on reaching Britain is a "humanitarian operation" and the squalid camp will be evacuated gradually "without force".

However, the charity Help Refugees says it has counted more than 3,400 people in the area to be bulldozed. Save the Children says nearly 400 unaccompanied minors, mostly aged 15 to 17, live there. Under French law, children of 15 and over cannot be forced into care.

Local authorities have sent social workers into the camp to persuade migrants to take up places at centres elsewhere in France or temporary accommodation at the camp in lorry containers with heating and electricity.

Yannis Mouzalas, the Greek migration minister, criticised countries for shutting borders along the route through the Balkans, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary into northern Europe.

Announcing the recall of Chryssoula Aliferi from Vienna, the Greek Foreign Ministry denounced "thoughts, attitudes and extra-institutional initiatives that have their roots in the 19th Century" and said that its counterparts were "ignorant of history".

Mr Avramopoulos said: "In the next 10 days, we need tangible results on the ground. Otherwise, there is a risk the system will completely break down. The possibility of a humanitarian crisis is very real and very near." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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