New refugee drownings in Aegean prompt Tsipras outcry
The rising death toll in the Aegean, where at least 35 people drowned on Friday while trying to reach Greece, prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to lash out at countries within the European Union that he believes are not doing enough to help tackle the crisis.
“I feel ashamed as a member of this European leadership, both for the inability of Europe in dealing with this human drama, and for the level of debate at a senior level, where one is passing the buck to the other,” Tsipras told Parliament.
His outburst came after more boats carrying refugees and migrants sank near Greek islands. There were several children among those who drowned.
More than 100 children and infants have drowned in the Aegean over the last two months. Tsipras accused some European officials of not caring about these deaths and “crying crocodile tears” over them.
He said that Greece would continue to provide assistance and dismissed the idea that his government was seeking something in return.
“Greece is in crisis. We are a poor people, but we have retained our values and humanity, and we aren’t claiming a single euro to do our duty to people who are dying in our back yard,” Tsipras said.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias also called on the EU to take greater responsibility for the problem.
“Some member-states cannot just think that this is not a European problem but one that five or six countries have to deal with,” he said following a meeting in Athens with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
“Instead of attacking and criticizing each other, it is very important we find common solutions,” said the visiting envoy, who also told Kathimerini that his government favors the creation of a European agency to guard the EU’s borders that would help Greece patrol the Aegean.
Spyros Galinos, the mayor of Lesvos, which has seen the biggest influx of all the Aegean islands, called on European officials to reach an agreement with Turkey for refugees to be processed on the neighboring country’s soil.
“Refugees have to be registered in Turkey so we prevent so many people from drowning,” he said. “Our mortuary is full of dead bodies and we have to get a license to create a new area where the dead can be buried.”
Galinos suggested that if the EU is not able to secure the cooperation of Turkey, then passenger ships have to be sent across the Aegean to pick up the refugees and bring them to Lesvos, where they can be registered.
“We are not talking about managing a problem, we are talking about stopping a crime,” he said.