New closed center in northern Greece as EU pledges aid

New closed center in northern Greece as EU pledges aid

The government has announced the creation over the next few days of a new closed camp in northern Greece for migrants that entered the country illegally since March 1, with a view to immediately deporting them back to their country of origin. 

At the same time, the government Tuesday issued a legislative act that stipulates the suspension for one month of asylum applications from people that enter Greece illegally. 

Accordingly, these people will not be registered and will be returned immediately to their country of origin. The act will have a retroactive effect and will include all those that entered the country since March 1.  

“The suspension of the asylum process sends a very important message that our country does not consider those who enter illegally as refugees,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis, who added these people are being exploited by Turkey in order to dispute Greece's sovereign rights. 

Meanwhile, with Europe scrambling for a response to the most serious migration crisis since 2015, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised Greece additional financial assistance and border guards.

“We can provide financial support of 700 million euros to Greece, with 350 million euros available directly and an additional 350 million euros which can be requested under an amending budget,” von der Leyen said, adding that “those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed.” 

“We will hold the line and our unity will prevail,” she said during a visit to the Greek-Turkish border together with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the presidents of the European Council and the European Parliament, and the Croatian prime minister, whose country is presiding over the EU this semester.

She also thanked Greece for acting as a “shield” (using the Greek word “aspida”) of Europe.

For his part, European Council President Charles Michel also expressed his full support for the operations of the Greek security forces, also stressing that Greece’s borders are Europe’s borders and that their defense is critical to the future of the European Union.

In an indirect reference to the criticism that has come Greece’s way over the legitimacy of the way it has reacted to stop the flow of migrants in the country, Michel said that the EU trusts the Greek government will do what it must with respect to international law and human rights.

Meanwhile, responding to questions whether the Commission supports the policy of pushbacks (the forcible repatriation of persons attempting to enter Greek territory) and the suspension of asylum applications for one month established by the Greek government, Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said the legal analysis of the suspension is being “taken very seriously” by the EC and that it is “conducting intensive consultations” with Athens on the issue. 

Meanwhile Tuesday, more than 2,000 refugees and migrants, holding their belongings, gathered at the main port of the island of Lesvos, following a rumor that a passenger ferry would transport them to the mainland. Police were called in to push them back to the camp, though many of the protesters returned to the port believing the ferry would arrive.