ATHENS – In harsh criticism of the government’s handling of the refugee and migrant crisis, main opposition SYRIZA on Monday issued an informal document referring to “10 tragic mistakes” the government has made and repeating its proposals for addressing the issue.
“For the last seven months, [the government] continues to proceed without any plan for handling the refugee and migrant crisis, daily reaffirming its managerial ineptitude and irresponsibility after having made a terrible situation radically worse for the islanders and asylum seekers,” the note said.
Among others, the party noted that the government had changed coordinators for migration six times in seven months, abolishing the migration policy ministry only to bring it back a few months later, while obstinately refusing to make plans for decongesting the islands, allowing the population at the Moria hotspot to increase from 5,000 to 25,000.
Even if it now wanted to transfer asylum seekers to the mainland, SYRIZA added, changes made to the laws for defining vulnerable groups, in order to satisfy its right-wing support base, meant that few asylum seekers now met the criteria. SYRIZA also accused the government of being afraid to lose support among local governments backed by ND on the mainland, deciding to “sacrifice” the islands instead.
The main opposition further accused the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of badly miscalculating in its handling of Turkey, adopting a policy of appeasement that only served to heighten Turkish provocativeness, while pointing out that Turkey had given both Greece and Europe ample warning of what it intends to do. In spite of this, it added, the government was “running to catch up” with the events, lacking either a strategy or a plan.
SYRIZA strongly criticised the government’s decision to allow unprecedented social tensions to flare on the islands and images of pitched battles between police and islanders to be seen throughout the world, noting that this further reinforced and vindicated Turkey’s tactics of escalating threats and using the refugee issue as a tool for blackmail.
The note additionally criticised Mitsotakis for failing to demand an EU leaders’ summit on the issue and European sanctions against Turkey, as well as his failure to contact Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly “as Alexis Tsipras had done in the past, during the most difficult moments of Greek-Turkish relations.”
Finally, SYRIZA accused the government of not taking advantage of its presence as a responsible main opposition ready to led support, “provided Mr. Mitsotakis sets aside communications management, petty party politics and an authoritarianism that, far from bringing results, only makes problems worse.”
The party went on to repeat its proposals for managing the problems, especially emphasising the need for greater EU involvement and support, as well as a fairer sharing of the burdens from the migration crisis.