Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday urged refugees and migrants camped in squalid conditions at Idomeni on Greece’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to agree to be moved to organized camps where they can be processed for relocation.
Tsipras’s comments, which were made during a meeting with visiting Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, came after several hundred migrants and refugees trekked into FYROM through an unguarded river crossing a few kilometers from the neutral border zone of Idomeni.
“Yesterday we had an unacceptable incident: the encouragement of these people by unknown people or by people who pose as volunteers not only to remain at the border but also to cross the border in unfavorable conditions,” Tsipras said referring to reports that a flyer had been distributed to the Idomeni migrants informing them of the unguarded crossing and urging them to attempt passage through a rain-swelled river.
“We appeal to the refugees at Idomeni to abandon their effort to remain in the area. There is no way that those who closed off the passage will reopen it again,” Tsipras said amid concerns of deteriorating conditions at the makeshift camp that is currently home to around 10,000 refugees and migrants.
Tsipras urged them to move to reception centers, vowing that “we will work together to speed up the process for their legal relocation to Europe.”
“The amassing of refugees and migrants at our northern borders is creating the conditions of a humanitarian crisis,” Tsipras said. “We do not want to transform it into a cross-border problem between Greece and Skopje.”
The Greek prime minister’s comments were made after a meeting at his office with Sargsyan, who has been in Greece since Monday to discuss bilateral relations and for the inauguration of an exhibition at the capital’s Byzantine & Christian Museum titled “Spirit of Ararat.”