With the coronavirus having crossed Greece’s threshold, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday announced tighter border controls to tackle migrant flows.
Addressing his cabinet, he said that since the flows include people from Iran and Afghanistan, where cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed, Greece is citing European Commission Regulation 2016/399, and in particular Paragraph 6, regarding the prevention of threats to public health.
To the end of imposing tighter controls, Mitsotakis instructed the Merchant Marine Ministry and port authorities to significantly increase the number of vessels and patrols off the islands of the eastern Aegean.
“Under international law we will increase controls both at sea and on land,” Mitsotakis said, adding that he has already informed the European Commission of his decision, which must be seen “as a health protection measure for all of Europe.”
He said he will also inform Turkey and that an international campaign will be launched in the languages of migrants heading to Greece, warning that the country can no longer accept illegal entries.
He also bemoaned the recent clashes between residents of the islands that oppose the construction of new closed migrant centers and riot police.
He vowed to hold to account the people behind the “cowardly” attack on Wednesday against police officers in the hotel they were staying at on Chios. However, he also pledged that reports of excessive force by police will also be investigated.
Moreover, in a bid to de-escalate tension with local communities, he said he “totally understands” the situation on the islands.
“We are here to deal with all the difficulties on the islands,” he said, while urging locals “to keep the peace by isolating all extreme elements, from the far right and left as well as suspicious nongovernment organizations.”
The government’s plan, he said, comprises border protection, accelerated procedures for asylum and returns, and the creation of new controlled migrant structures.
“It is the only plan that can be implemented,” he said.
Meanwhile Mitsotakis met Thursday in Athens with island mayors in a bid to reach a compromise.