Greece Seeks EU Allies to Deal with Refugee, Migrant Crisis

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this Friday, May 4, 2018 file photo migrants and refugees wait outside the European Asylum Support Service offices inside the camp of Moria on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

ATHENS – Overwhelmed with more than 74,000 refugees and migrants being housed in detention centers and camps, Greece wants other European Union countries to either assist or be penalized for refusing to help and take some of the overload as they promised before reneging.

Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas said he' use the next European Union meeting to try to get backers.“I estimate that at least 16 countries are prepared to agree to a joint policy of solidarity,” Vitsas told a press conference.

That leaves 12 that aren't and who have refused to aid as the EU has closed its borders and refugees, dumping the problem on Greece during a more than 8 1/2-year-long economic and austerity crisis. The proposal currently being considered by EU officials would include inancial penalties on countries that refuse to take in refugees although the bloc's migration chief, veteran Greek politician Dimitris Avramopoulos has said he can't take reluctant countries to court because the issue is too delicate politically.

Most of the refugees and migrants are seeking aslyum and have been in centers and camps up to two years or more, including some 15,000 on islands near Turkey where they went, fleeing civil war and strife in their countries and hoping to get to more prosperous EU countries through Greece before being shut out.

A swap program with Turkey has been suspended and only a relative handful have been returned, Vitsas admitted, blaming “difficult and time-consuming procedures which have, however, been accelerated in recent months.”

While most have taken the perilous route by sea to reach Greek islands a growing number are choosing land routes although Greece's border with Greece is traversed by the Evros River, which can be dangerous to cross and where many have drowned trying.