As tensions peaked at temporary reception facilities for migrants, Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas said over the weekend that Greece was doing all it can to tackle a relentless migration crisis which he described as “a massive problem, stretching the limits of our country and of Europe.”
Toskas visited the Tae Kwon Do Stadium in Palaio Faliro, southern Athens, on Saturday following scuffles between groups of migrants from different countries. Greece cannot keep hosting thousands of migrants streaming into the country, he said. “Our country can’t handle it, our economy can’t handle it.”
Asked by reporters about a joint letter he and Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas sent to European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, Toskas said the two ministers underlined that the return of migrants from EU countries must be carried out in line with EU regulations and agreements “to keep the number of people that we can support at manageable levels.”
Toskas’s comments came ahead of a European Union leaders’ summit planned for Thursday and Friday where the issue of migration is to be discussed along with plans for the creation of a new EU border force which, unlike Frontex, will not require the approval of member-states to be deployed.
In an interview with Kathimerini on Sunday, Frontex’s Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri said the border agency had guards ready to dispatch to Greece as early as October but Greek authorities delayed the deployment as they had not appointed Greek officials to head the teams.
Concern has been mounting that thousands of migrants arriving in Greece by boat from neighboring Turkey will become trapped in the country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has tightened controls at Greece’s northern border. Thousands of migrants who had been in a makeshift camp near the FYROM border were bused to Athens last week. Most of them were moved to the Tae Kwon Do Stadium, where scuffles broke out late on Friday and on Saturday morning, prompting riot police to intervene.
According to sources, the clashes were between groups of migrants from Morocco and other countries and followed allegations that some migrants had stolen cell phones and cash from others.