France offers to take in 400 refugees, help with returns, ambassador says

France offers to take in 400 refugees, help with returns, ambassador says

France will be taking in 400 asylum-seekers from Greece in the coming months in order to help the country tackle mounting arrivals from neighboring Turkey, while also helping coordinate mass returns for migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected, French Ambassador to Athens Patrick Maisonnave told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency in an interview published on Thursday.

“I relayed a letter to the Greek authorities from French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, in which he proposes a real collaboration between the two countries on matters of migration and asylum,” Maisonnave told the ANA-MPA agency in translated comments.

“Within the next few months, France will take in 400 people who have entered Greek territory. We want to help Greece in a practical manner to deal with the increased migration flows of recent months… For individuals whose [asylum] applications have been rejected, we will carry out, in cooperation with Greece and Frontex, group flights to their countries of origin,” he added.

Apart from the 400 asylum-seekers and helping organize returns, Maisonnave said these proposals included assistance in combatting illegal immigration rackets and support on the ground in Greece.

“We will increase the presence of French experts on this particular subject in Greece and, if the government wants, of course, we can strengthen Greek teams on the islands with French interpreters, doctors and psychologists,” he said.

“We cannot allow Greece to remain helpless in the face of a humanitarian crisis and vis-a-vis Turkey, which has repeatedly threatened to ‘open the gates’ to migrants,” Maisonnave said.

“First-entry countries like Greece are shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden. Reforms are imperative and France, together with Germany, want these reforms to be made as soon as possible, in cooperation with the new European Commission,” the French ambassador said, hailing the recommendations made to Brussels by the Greek government.

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