The European Union’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos Friday inaugurated Greece’s first refugee screening center, or “hotspot,” on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, warning, however, that the ultimate success of the system relied on migrant cooperation.
“The message for everybody is to follow the rules,” Avramopoulos said during a press conference along with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greece’s Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas.
Luxembourg currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
Asylum seekers wishing to settle in Northern Europe are often reluctant to apply for protection out of fear of being stranded in Greece. Lodging an application, Avramopoulos said, was crucial if Europe’s refugee relocation scheme was to operate.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz canceled his visit.
Officials made an on-site inspection of the facility, which is hosted at a former migrant detention center at Moria.
“If this had taken place 10 months ago, we could have avoided what we went through this summer,” Avramopoulos said. “More importantly, we would have been able to treat all those people who are seeking for a better life in Europe in a more humane manner,” he said.
Additional hotspots on Chios, Samos, Kos, and Leros are expected to be fully operational by end-November.
Meanwhile, Turkey Friday said it was not happy with an EU offer for financial aid to help ease migration pressure. Ankara’s reaction came hours after the EU had announced the agreement at a leaders’ summit. Turkey said the deal was only a draft.