Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday reiterated his appeal for support in dealing with an ongoing refugee and migration crisis during a visit to the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.
“The problem is not Greek but European and we must tackle it together,” Tsipras told reporters. He and Faymann visited reception centers and were briefed by local authority officials on the situation on the island which has borne the brunt of a rising influx of migrants.
Tsipras pledged to upgrade reception facilities by the end of November. “We have to organize the hotspots for the procedures of registration and identification of refugees,” he said, referring to the centers Greece has pledged to set up on Aegean islands and at the port of Piraeus as part of an EU plan to relocate refugees.
Faymann, who Tsipras appears to regard as an ally in his bid to raise support for Greece’s efforts to tackle the migration problem, has offered to send 100 experts to assist with registration.
Officials in Brussels have been active too. A day after the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex pledged to send hundreds of guards to Greece, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered Turkey a plan under which it would relocate refugees as long as Ankara sets up new camps and bolsters its coast guard to stop migrants heading for Greece.
“It is clear we need Turkey. The Commission will come to its aid,” Juncker said. The plan is said to include funding for Turkey out of 1 billion euros set aside for the refugee problem.
Tsipras also referred to the need to work with Turkey. “We have to cooperate with the Turkish authorities... and organize better conditions so refugees do not risk their lives in the Aegean,” he said.
An EU program aimed at relocating 40,000 refugees from burdened countries on the EU’s external borders is to start on Friday. The first to travel will be a group of Eritreans who will be relocated from Italy to Sweden.
In an interview with the BBC, European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said 600,000 refugees have made asylum applications this year.