During his visit on Thursday to Lesvos, which was marred by clashes between demonstrators and riot police during protests over the government’s and the European Union’s migration policy, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras acknowledged that mistakes have been made with regard to the refugee crisis.
“Mistakes have been made and there are [infrastructure] shortages,” he said while also seeking to attribute the rallies which drew some 2,500 protesters to “those that aim to create a climate of terror.”
Speaking at the Regional Development Conference of the Northern Aegean, Tsipras took a swipe at the protesters for not attending the event to voice their concerns. “If they were here we would listen carefully but would ask them to make proposals,” he said, adding that those who did not come to the event “have no solutions to offer.”
“They chose the road of tension in an environment already burdened by three years of an international refugee crisis,” he said at the conference, which he said was aimed at boosting economic prospects and quality of life on the islands.
Strikes brought Lesvos to a grinding halt on Thursday in protest at the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement which stipulated that migrants and refugees arriving on the island will be deported back to Turkey unless they are granted asylum in Greece.
However, thousands have been stranded on the eastern Aegean island where they live in overcrowded and squalid conditions.
Hundreds of people, some waving black flags, chanted slogans in solidarity with migrants but were blocked by police from approaching government officials.
Earlier in the day, on a visit to neighboring Lemnos, Tsipras sought to send a message of Greek determination to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid a spike in bilateral tensions.
“Our primary duty is security and protecting our borders and territorial integrity,” he said. “Particularly today in a period of destabilization with a neighbor who often resorts to acts of provocation without realizing that they do not lead anywhere, only deadlock.”
Greece will continue to be “a stabilizing force” in the broader region, he said.