NEWS

Alliances sought amid migration pressure

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU

Former French president Francois Hollande tours a migrant reception unit in Elaionas, downtown Athens, Thursday with Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas (center back). Hollande called on Turkey to honor a deal with the European Union to curb human smuggling and said he believed ‘no further austerity measures’ should be imposed on Greece. After meeting President Prokopis Pavlopoulos Thursday, Hollande is to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Friday.

TAGS: Migration

As Greece struggles with a continuing influx of undocumented migrants from both its land and sea borders, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas indicated Thursday that authorities will seek a country alliance at the next European Union summit on the refugee crisis.

“I estimate that at least 16 countries are prepared to agree to a joint policy of solidarity,” Vitsas told a press conference. The proposal currently being considered by EU officials foresees financial penalties on countries that refuse to take in refugees and share the responsibility of managing the ongoing crisis.

The minister conceded that Greece’s system for managing migrant inflows cannot last much longer. An estimated total of 72,000 migrants are currently in Greece. Of these, some 65,000 are in state-run facilities and subsidized accommodation, Vitsas said.

He admitted that there have been relatively few returns to Turkey – in line with a deal signed between Ankara and Brussels in 2016 – blaming “difficult and time-consuming procedures which have, however, been accelerated in recent months.”

The biggest problem is the increased influx from Greece’s land border with Turkey, with 14,250 new arrivals recorded in the year to November 12, he said, noting that the figure for the same period last year was 5,500.

Also Thursday, Vitsas accompanied former French president Francois Hollande on a tour of a migrant reception facility at Elaionas, near central Athens.

Hollande called on Turkey to honor its deal with the EU to crack down on human smuggling across the Aegean, noting that it would otherwise suffer financial repercussions.

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