Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias insisted on Tuesday that it is imperative that the European Union’s external borders are protected and that migrants are not weaponized for political use as the Afghanistan crisis unfolds.
Speaking during an extraordinary meeting convened by High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to discuss developments in Afghanistan, Dendias warned that migration flows would increase, and a new humanitarian crisis must be averted. To this end he called for cooperation and agreement on the issue and underscored the need to send a clear message to third countries like Turkey that migrants must not be used for political means.
Dendias also stressed that the evacuation of all EU citizens is an urgent priority, and welcomed the inclusion of Afghan interpreters that had worked for Greek forces in Afghanistan and their families in the evacuation plans of some EU member-states.
Dendias said the EU must insist that the Taliban respect fundamental rights and freedoms and guarantee the protection of women, minors and minorities, as well cultural heritage.
Dendias’ comments reflect concern in Greece of a repeat of developments in 2015, when it was on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis, which saw nearly a million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arriving on Greek islands.
Echoing the same sentiment, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis told state television ERT TV that “we are clearly saying that we will not and cannot be the gateway to Europe for the refugees and migrants who could try to come to the European Union.”
“We cannot have millions of people leaving Afghanistan and coming to the European Union… and certainly not through Greece,” he said.
Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis will chair a meeting on Wednesday of the country’s top decision-making body on foreign affairs and defense matters, KYSEA, to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The meeting has been scheduled for 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, in Mytilene on Lesvos on Wednesday, representatives of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches and migrants held a joint prayer for all those affected by the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban.
The event included local priests, members of the Catholic Church’s humanitarian organization Sant’Egidio, and Bishop of Amorion Nikephoros, representing Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios.