ATHENS – As hundreds more refugees and migrants are arriving almost daily on Greek islands from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homeland, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the European Union needs to change its Dublin asylum policy which means they can only seek asylum in the first country in which they arrive.
Since it’s essentially impossible for them to land in countries such as Germany or England, where most prefer to go, the policy means that the refugees can only seek sanctuary in countries such as Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.
But many prefer Greece, the closest point to Turkey where they had gone from Afghanistan, Syria, running away from a civil war, sub-Saharan African countries and as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh, hoping to reach more prosperous EU countries before the borders were closed.
Mitsotakis said at an event in youth participation in European politics that the new European Commission’s first priority should be managing migration, although his own New Democracy’s party veteran Dimitris Avramopoulos was in charge of that for 4 ½ years and did little and that portfolio is now in the hands of the Conservatives’ Margaritis Schinas.
“Greece has reached its limits. We need a common system on asylum that will replace Dublin,” he said, adding that the sharing of the burden should not be just an empty slogan without any substance, reported Kathimerini and the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA.)
He said the situation on the islands where are some 36,400 refugees and migrants, the numbers swelling despite transfers to the mainland, is now “unmanageable,” island residents are unsettled.
“We do not see how this trend will stop in the near future,” he explained, stressing that migration is an issue that concerns the entire EU, with other countries reneging on promises to help take some of the overload and Avramopoulos saying he couldn’t take them to court because it was too delicate a political issue for him.
The Prime Minister was special guest at the event, which is part of the European People’s Party’s (EPP) Statutory Congress for the election of its new leadership and of the EPP’s Summit.