New Democracy expressed concern on Tuesday about the growing refugee crisis in Greece as conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the camp at Idomeni, near the country’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where he was shocked by the conditions he found.
“This is a punch in our country’s stomach, for civilized Europe and for our values,” said Mitsotakis after surveying the camp, where more than 10,000 refugees are staying in terrible conditions in the hope of being allowed to cross into FYROM.
Mitsotakis also noted an absence of state officials at the site. He said that the only public employee he came across during his visit was a doctor working for the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO). He called on the government to immediately put together a plan of action to move refugees away from Idomeni to other sites with better sanitation and medical assistance.
Mitsotakis chaired an emergency meeting of his advisers and party officials upon his return to Athens. New Democracy subsequently issued a statement expressing concern about the way the government is handling the crisis.
“We are doing our duty and are fully aware of the national responsibility,” the conservatives said. “At the same time, though, we will not back down from our decision to prevent Greece become a giant camp.”
New Democracy also slammed Culture Minister Aristides Baltas over a comment in which he suggested that the image of Idomeni “honors” Greece. Mitsotakis tweeted sarcastically that he would propose to Baltas that he should visit the refugee camp “so he can feel national pride.”
Baltas said his comment had been taken out of context and that he was referring to the government’s refusal to use force against the refugees rather than the general conditions at the camp. “We are not trying to force them away, nor to round them up or pen them in,” he said. “We are trying to convince them to go to the camps that are feverishly being built around the country.”