Refugees on the Greek side of the border await permission to enter Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), near Gevgelia.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads to Monday’s crucial summit in Brussels between the European Union and Turkey determined to push for the “equitable sharing of the burden among member-states” as thousands of refugees continue to pile up at the closed border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
On Saturday, a regional governor called on the government to declare a state of emergency, describing the situation in the border region as a huge “humanitarian crisis.”
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the regional governor of central Macedonia in northern Greece, said there are currently 13,000-14,000 people trapped at the Idomeni border region, reflecting the urgency surrounding Monday’s summit, which is aimed at striking a deal with Turkey to stem the influx of refugees.
“This summit is extremely important and crucial for the months ahead,” said European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Saturday. He insisted that Greece is not alone in the refugee crisis and lauded a joint statement by Greek party leaders on Friday signaling the government’s determination to live up to its pledges to the EU on the refugees. The statement also called on the bloc to ensure that all member-states live up to their commitments.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed similar sentiments on Saturday, saying the EU should help Greece deliver on its pledge to find accommodation for 50,000 refugees, which, she said, it should have done by the end of 2015.
“This must be resolved at lightning speed,” Merkel told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag. But she also pledged solidarity with Tsipras.
“He needs our help and that’s why the EU must and will support Greece in solidarity.”
With several European countries unilaterally closing their borders, thousands of refugees are stranded, rendering Greece, according to Tsipras last week, “a warehouse of souls.”
Merkel slammed Austria and other Balkan countries for imposing border restrictions and blamed them for the dire situation in Greece, while Tsipras slammed them for “ruining Europe.”