The center is the first of five designed to register and screen all incoming migrants is opening this week. Commissioner Avramopoulos: I am more optimistic now.
Athens.- Greece’s first so-called migrant hotspot on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos will start operating next week, Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said on Saturday, adding that another four screening centers will follow on other islands. He made the announcement during a press conference in Athens to present EU policy on migration and refugee relocation, along with European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn.
“We are going to keep to our commitments,” Yiannis Mouzalas, Greece’s junior interior minister for migration, told reporters. Mouzalas said it was critical that the EU “applies the same criteria for all countries.”
In his comments, Avramopoulos said that a total of 160,000 refugees will be distributed among the bloc’s non-border nations. He said guest countries would be decided by experts at EU-staffed hotspots, and not the refugees.
Europe needs the hotspots because it “must know who comes knocking at the door,” Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who participated in talks in Athens together with the EU’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, told journalists. Greece would also receive financial and logistical aid for the task, Asselborn said.
“No country can shoulder this burden on its own. Europe will offer money and know-how,” said Asselborn.
Greece was also planning to work out an action plan with Turkey to deal with the refugee crisis, Avramopoulos said.
“The steps taken so far were in the right direction. Today very important decisions have been taken, we are moving very quickly, and I trust that soon, as the government is committed to roll out the first hotspot in Mytilene, but also in other places where there is an increased influx of refugees. Because as you know, in the case of Greece, 80% are refugees: those who are entitled, in line with UN principles, to international protection. Greece is a country of which the people have hospitality in their DNA. It is obliged to assume its part of responsibility, adapting and implementing Europe’s policies for the protection of the European borders. I am more optimistic now, following these meetings today, that everything is moving very fast,” Avramopoulos added..
UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres began on Saturday a two and a half-day mission to Greece tomorrow (Saturday) aimed at assessing the humanitarian response to the Mediterranean crisis and determining how UNHCR can further support those efforts. On Saturday, Mr. Guterres visited the island of Lesvos, to get a first-hand look at the arrival areas, visit reception sites and meet with local authorities, NGOs, volunteer groups and others involved in the relief effort.
We was expected in Athens on Sunday and Monday, when he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other members of his Cabinet. He will also visit accommodation sites in Athens and meet foreign diplomatic missions and NGOs.
The EU has so far spent 33 million euros on dealing with the migration crisis, officials said.
Minister of State for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris discussed on Friday with a delegation of Democratic U.S. Senators, led by Dick Durbin, developments on the refugee crisis and Greece’s stance on the issue. The delegation is visiting Greece and the U.S. Ambassador to Greece, David Pearce. The delegation also visited the Island of Lesvos, the main gateway for migrants arriving in Europe, especially Syrians fleeing the war in their country. More than 400,000 refugees have crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey and arrived at the Greek island this year. Around half of these were Syrians.
Last month, EU leaders agreed to set up hotspots in Greece and Italy to screen incoming refugees and differentiate between bona fide asylum seekers and economic migrants. Earlier this week, European leaders developed a plan to send back those they called economic migrants and grant asylum only to people from conflict zones.
More than 600,000 refugees have reached Europe via the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, and nearly 3,000 have died en route, according to the International Organization for Migration.
PM TSIPRAS: OUR BORDERS ARE SAFE
“Our borders are safe,” stated Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday after attending the final phase of the military exercise “Parmenion” at Evros and said that he is “totally satisfied and impressed by the alertness of the Greek Army.”
“Our country is not in war,” he said, however, Greece in the middle of a destabilization triangle.
He also referred to the refugee issue. “The refugee crisis is a major problem for all Europe and for all European societies, each one individually. This is a problem which is more intense in Greece because of geography and proximity to areas of conflict. Thousands of families are taking the road of exile to escape the war. We have experienced similar situations and that is why we are in solidarity with those people. And we demand from our neighbors to do the same. The refugee issue, the pain and suffering of the people cannot be used to serve the national interests of any country,” he added.