Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas insisted on Thursday that the European Union’s agreement with Turkey regarding refugee flows is working at the moment but stressed that Greece will be “severely tested” if it breaks down.
Mouzalas denied telling Germany’s Bild newspaper earlier this week that Europe needs to come up with a “plan B” in case the deal with Turkey fails. He said there are no signs at the moment of this happening. “It is the position of the European Commission, President Francois Hollande, Chancellor Angela Merkel and our own that the agreement should stand,” he told Skai TV.
“So far Turkey has kept to the agreement and we are making every effort so the deal is upheld,” he added. Mouzalas said that there had only been three days on which more than 100 refugees arrived on Greek islands, suggesting there has been no indication of a surge in arrivals.
However, the minister also sounded a note of caution about what might happen in the future. “We will be severely tested if the agreement collapses,” he said. “If the flows start again, no country would be able to cope with those kind of numbers. We are fearful and we are preparing. We have the first and second steps that we would take in place.”
Mouzalas said that so far only around 4,000 of up to 40,000 refugees who are eligible for relocation had been accepted by other EU countries. “There have been delays,” he said, adding that paperwork for another 4,000 refugees has been prepared.
There were two successful rescues off Lesvos on Thursday, resulting in 71 people being brought to safety.