ATHENS – Greece needs solidarity and support from EU member states in handling the migration issue, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director General António Vitorino said in Athens on Friday, as increased migration crossings to Greece in the second half of the year have added stress to already overburdened structures and communities, especially on the islands.
Vitorino, on a one-day visit to Greece, met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias and later with Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis. With the mayor, the IOM official visited the Eleonas open facility in the centre of Athens which currently hosts some 1,800 refugees and asylum seekers. The facility is one of the 30 long-term accommodation facilities active in the Greek mainland, hosting some 24,000 migrants and refugees with the support of the European Commission.
The head of UN migration agency welcomed the Greek government’s policy initiative to protect and assist unaccompanied migrant children and efforts to ease overcrowding on the islands, and offered the organization’s support through continuing humanitarian services, including transfers from the islands and accommodation on the mainland.
“The transfer of migrants and refugees from overcrowded, very poor conditions on the islands to the Greek mainland is a humane and practical demonstration of solidarity within Greece itself,” Vitorino said following the meeting. “Likewise, Greece needs continued solidarity and support from fellow EU member states to share the responsibility and to buffer against any future shocks,” he continued.
Vitorino expressed his certainty that “the dangers and the pressures of irregular migration facilitated by pervasive smuggling networks can be alleviated by improving and increasing channels for orderly and legal migration,” which he said included resettlement and complementary pathways and responsibility-sharing mechanism among EU member states.
Greece is a founding member of IOM, which has been present in the country since 1952.