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Politics

Mitsotakis Says Greece’s Borders Tight, Visits Samos Refugee Camp

October 3, 2021

Visting a new refugee detention camp on the island of Samos – within sight of Turkey, which has let human traffickers keep sending more – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis again said the European Union has to have a policy how to deal with them.

He also said that countries “who believe that this problem does not affect them” should change their stance, an apparent reference to Turkey which is supposed to contain them under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.

Mitsotakis said his New Democracy government had taken matters into its own hands, extending a fence along the land northern border with Turkey while also stepping up patrols in the Aegean to be on the lookout for more arrivals.

Greece has denied pushing back refugees and migrants trying to reach islands close to Turkey's shore and the government is building replacement camps holding people who are seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them.

Mitsotakis said the new camp on Samos is far better than one it replaced, which he said had “shameful” living conditions even during the first two years of his government that came to power in July, 7, 2019 snap elections.

New Democracy ousted the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that essentially had an open door policy accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.

He said the 43-million euro ($49.85 million) camp, with a capacity for 3,000 people, won't reach that limit because his government is more successful at keeping refugees and migrants from reaching Greek shores.

He noted that the facility is closed – people can't come and go as  before – and has a higher standard of living although human rights groups and detainees described as a higher standard prison.

The camp has sports facilities, playgrounds for children, spaces for events and cultural activities, a computer room, a wi-fi network, room for shop stalls, and communal laundry rooms and kitchens.

 It also has fire safety infrastructure, water purifiers, air conditioning, and a sewage treatment plant, he noted, said Kathimerini in a report on his visit.

He said Greece won't allow a repeat of 2015 when the refugees and migrants started pouring in en masse, hoping to use the country as a jumping-off point to get to more prosperous EU members before the doors were slammed shut.

There's worries that Afghans fleeing the murderous rule of the Taliban occupation of the country will head to Greece through Turkey again, leading Mitsotakis to have a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss how to prevent that.

"We will not accept uncontrolled migratory flows similar to the ones we saw in 2015," Mitsotakis told reporters on the flight back to Athens, said the news agency Reuters.

Greece welcomed 26 Afghan women lawyers and judges and their families but such cases "will be the exception", Mitsotakis said. "They cannot be perceived as a pull factor,” he added.

"We have been successful in sending a message to smugglers, and their clients that undertaking the treacherous trip across the Aegean is probably a waste of money," Mitsotakis also said.

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