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'EU's Migration System Risks Complete Breakdown'

  • Lisa Bryant

Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship at the Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 22, 2016.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship at the Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 22, 2016.

The European Union’s migration commissioner warned Thursday the block’s migration system risks a complete breakdown. Underscoring the deepening EU rifts over the issue, Greece has recalled its ambassador to Austria after not being invited to a migrant meeting.

Speaking after migration talks in Brussels, European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned EU member states have just over a week to make progress on the migrant standoff before a summit with Turkey on March 7.

“In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise, there is a danger, a risk that the whole system will completely break down," said Avramopoulos.

The meeting aimed to heal deepening divisions among EU member states over handling the migrant influx. Greece recalled its ambassador to Austria after Vienna hosted a meeting with Balkan states Wednesday that Greek officials were not invited to.

Those attending — including non-EU members — agreed to a series of unilateral restrictions to reduce the asylum seekers crossing their borders. But that leaves Greece, often the first point of entry, with a mounting migrant problem. Athens has threatened to block future EU migrant decisions if member states don’t accept mandatory quotas.

FILE - Filippo Grandi.

FILE - Filippo Grandi.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Brussels meeting, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says many asylum seekers arriving in Greece are refugees rather than economic migrants.

“We have discussed with the government of Greece how to handle a potential increase of refugees that have to stay in Greece because they cannot go any further. But that will require a lot of work and a lot of additional resources," said Grandi.

There are also growing migrant tensions elsewhere, including between Belgium and France. Brussels started imposing border checks this week to curb migrants coming from the French port city of Calais, where a judge upheld an eviction order for a migrant camp.

More than a million asylum seekers flocked to Europe last year, and more than 100,000 have arrived so far this year. Experts warn that as the weather warms up, those numbers will only grow.

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