ATHENS – European Union’s migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos is calling on countries who’ve closed their borders to refugees and migrants to help relieve overwhelmed Greece, but isn’t pressing legal action to make them do it.
Avramopoulos, a veteran of Greece’s New Democracy party, has been lenient on countries within the EU who also reneged on promises to take overloads from Greece, which is overwhelmed with more than 64,000 refugees and migrants unleashed by human traffickers that Turkey is letting operate.
That’s despite a suspended swap deal with the EU which is supposed to see those stuck in Greece who are deemed ineligible for asylum to be sent back to Turkey, although it’s not clear what would then happen as they got there after fleeing war and strife and economic problems in the Middle East, North Africa and other countries.
“Solidarity cannot be a la carte, it cannot be voluntary and it is not negotiable,” Avramopoulos said in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper, adding that the so-called Dublin system – under which people arriving in the EU must stay to claim asylum in the first country they reach – must be revised in June 2018.
That system means that refugees and migrants, many who fled in boats, land only in Greece and Italy and it’s otherwise nearly impossible for them to initially reach countries such as Germany, the primary destination for many before the borders shut down.
Avramopoulos, who has the power to make countries honor commitments but hasn’t, saying it’s a delicate political matter, spoke after new Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, 31, said the EU should end “failed” attempts to achieve a quota system for distributing asylum seekers around the bloc.
“Forcing states to take refugees doesn’t take Europe any further. The discussion makes no sense,” Kurz told the Saturday edition of Berlin-based newspaper Bild.
European Council President Donald Tusk, whose country Poland is refusing to help Greece and who represents the heads of state in the 28-country bloc, earlier said he doesn’t want a quota system either, which means the problem would be dumped on Greece during a more than 7 ½-year-long economic crisis.