ATHENS – Complaining of little help from the European Union – whose migration chief is veteran Greek politician Dimitris Avramopoulos from the now-ruling New Democracy – the government said other countries should take some of the more than 70,000 refugees and migrants.
“Since July 7, there has not been a single day without arrivals,” Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection Giorgios Koumoutsakos told the daily Kathimerini, using the day the Conservatives won snap elections and ousted the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA who critics said ignored inhumane conditions at camps and detention centers on Greek islands holding some 15,000.
On five Aegean islands close to Turkey – Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros – “The total number of refugees and migrants has exceeded 20,000,” said Koumoutsakos, whose portfolio also includes dealing with them. “This constitutes an increase of 17 percent in a few weeks,” he said.
Two days after his party took control of Greece, Avramopoulos called for “provisional agreements” between the bloc’s member states on dealing with migrants rescued at sea until reform of asylum regulations was done, which now require sanctuary can only be sought in the country of first arrival – almost always Greece or Italy.
“The challenges of migration cannot only be the responsibility of Italy and Malta simply because these states are located on the Mediterranean,” Avramopoulos told Die Welt newspaper without mentioning his own country.
Despite his position, he has not pressed other EU countries who closed their borders to refugees and migrants to take some as they had pledged and said he can’t take them to EU courts because it’s too delicate for him to handle.