Greek PM: Vast majority of people crossing borders are migrants, not refugees

Greek PM: Vast majority of people crossing borders are migrants, not refugees

Unlike 2015, the vast majority of people crossing borders to enter Europe via Greece are migrants, not refugees, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament on Friday.

“Refugees are one thing, economic migrants are quite another,” Mitsotakis said in response to a question by Mera25 leader Yanis Varoufakis who called for the shutdown of the notoriously overcrowded Moria reception center on Lesvos island.

“We should acknowledge that on the basis of real data, the problem that we are now dealing with is a migration [problem,] not so much a refugee [problem],” he said.

The Greek premier said that in 2015 Syrians made up around 75 percent of arrivals, whereas today the percentage has dropped to 20 percent. About half of arrivals are economic migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mitsotakis said, adding that they were being smuggled in by organized rings of traffickers.

Call for sanctions

Mitsotakis laid out four parallel policies undertaken by the government in a bid to remedy the situation, namely a more rigorous and fair asylum system (to be laid out in a bill soon to be tabled in Parliament); better coordination between the various state agencies as well as between the state and nongovernment organizations in order to improve monitoring and accountability; stricter border controls, including increased sea patrols and additional border outposts in the Evros region; and, finally, a campaign to promote the migration-refugee crisis as an international issue.

Additionally, Mitsotakis said Greece plans to request sanctions on EU member states that refuse refugee quotas.

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