Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday emphasized Greece’s decisive role in managing a refugee crisis, declaring that the country is “guarding the European Union’s borders.”
Tsipras’s comments, made to state television channel ERT3, came as pressure grows on Greece due to an influx of migrants arriving on Aegean islands from Turkey.
“Greece is making a multifaceted effort to tackle the refugee crisis,” Tsipras said, adding that the country is “honoring its European obligations to create centers for the reception and identification of refugees.”
“Europe must realize that Greece is guarding the European Union’s borders at this time,” he added.
Putting up fences will not curb the influx of refugees, which is caused by war and poverty, Tsipras said in a dig at Balkan countries that have refused to take in migrants.
The Greek premier’s statements came just two days before EU leaders are to meet in Brussels for talks on the refugee crisis which are to also include Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister of Turkey, a key transit country for migrants heading toward Europe via Greece.
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem warned on Friday that countries failing to adequately guard EU borders, and refusing to take in their share of refugees, could find themselves outside the borders of what he called a “mini-Schengen,” referring to the EU’s passport-free travel zone.
A team of European officials are visiting Greece to help with preparations necessary to unlock emergency EU funding for tackling migration. It appears unlikely, however, that five refugee screening centers, or “hotspots,” that Greece has promised to set up on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos will be up and running by the end of the year, partly due to opposition by local authorities and residents.