ATHENS – Bitterly criticized over his handling of refugees and migrants stuck in Greek detention centers and camps up to two years, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said he will deal with continued arrivals on Greek islands from Turkey but didn’t say how.
There are some 64,000 refugees and migrants stuck in Greece with the suspension of a European Union swap deal with Turkey, which has let human traffickers operate with near-impunity. That includes some 15,200 on islands where officials have pleaded in vain with Mouzalas to send them to the mainland.
Few of those whose asylum applications have been rejected have been returned to Turkey as the plan required and Mouzalas’ slow response has been ripped even by critics in his own own ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party, which has as its junior partner the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) led by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
“If the flows increase, then everything will be reviewed,” Mouzalas said in vague terms. Ironically, his tenure has been taken apart by the Council of Europe – to which he could receive a key appointment and absolve himself.
He said further precautions would be taken if the numbers keep increasing and the weather worsens without indicating why that hasn’t been done in preparation in the warmer months to get ready for winter.
“We are not magicians, no one has a magic wand,” he said. “Every time we find a way to adapt,” he added without adding that he previously said refugees in icy tents were not cold.
He said he hasn’t determined what would constitute a sharp enough hike in arrivals to make him act or what he would do, continuing to dodge questions about specific measures he mights have in mind if he has any.
Migration officials have said though that some refugees and migrants could be housed on ferry boats in island ports although that could be for weeks or months and those ships have few if any sleeping quarters or showers.
Some 1500 refugees and migrants in the Moria center on Lesbos are sleeping in tents,more than two years after the crisis began. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras went there once, as did Pope Francis and some celebrities but human rights groups said almost nothing has improved since.