NEWS

Athens complains to Hungary over handling of migration crisis

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The Foreign Ministry Thursday issued an official complaint to the Hungarian Embassy in Athens, rejecting criticism by Hungarian officials of Greece’s handling of a burgeoning migration crisis and accusing officials in Budapest of “brutal cynicism.”

“We find it difficult to witness either the wave of statements from Hungarian officials against our country or, and mainly, what the UN secretary-general characterizes as the ‘unacceptable’ conduct of Hungary’s forces of order against the refugees, including infants, who are living through the drama and misery of war,” ministry spokesperson Konstantinos Koutras said in a statement.

He added that the use of violence and armed patrols and “the driving of innocent victims of war into Balkan minefields” are not “appropriate” behavior for an EU member-state.

Koutras defended Greece’s efforts to guard the EU’s southeastern flank while respecting the rights of refugees, saying the country is doing “everything humanly possible” but that more support is needed.

“It is obvious that the burden of the current, unprecedented refugee crisis cannot be shouldered by one country alone,” he said, calling for “humanity, cooperation, solidarity and coordination” with fellow EU states, “not brutal cynicism, provocative statements, the use of violence, or a return to Cold War walls.”

Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos struck a similar note during a joint press conference in Budapest with Hungary’s foreign and interior ministers, saying that barriers such as the one Hungary had built along its Serbian border were temporary solutions and fueled tensions.

“There is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not cross if you are fleeing violence and terror,” he said. “We have a moral duty to offer them protection.”

In Athens, officials attributed the occasionally divisive rhetoric in some EU member-states to domestic politics in those countries and discerned an overall will to work toward a solution. Next Tuesday, EU interior and home affairs ministers are to meet in Brussels to discuss the migration crisis ahead of a summit of EU leaders the next day.

Greek government officials have heralded plans to build two new migrant reception facilities – one in Lavrio, eastern Attica, and one in Thessaloniki.

However, the mayor of Lavreotiki, the region that includes Lavrio, Thursday told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency that local authorities oppose plans to set up the facility in an old munitions plant in the area. The site is “inappropriate,” Dimitris Loukas told AMNA.