The heavy burden that the refugee crisis has placed on cash-strapped Greece and especially the Greek islands
underlined Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the “Supporting Syria and the Region” conference in London, where the Greek PM met with top European officials including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron
Athens insists that refugees be relocated directly to the European Union from Turkey, and not cross through Greece.
Greece is asking for full implementation of the and pushing strenuously for the implementation of a refugee relocation tool that is currently moving at negligible rates.
Merkel: focus on hotspots
During the meeting of the Greek Prime Minister and Angela Merkel , government sources said that Merkel asked that the Greek hotspots be completed by February 18, in time for the European Council in Brussels.
The government has repeatedly said that it will have implemented its commitments by that date, they noted.
The Greek government has also underlined that, once the Italian prime minister lifts obstacles to financing, there must be immediate implementation of the agreements in the EU-Turkey joint action plan.
In the meeting, which was also attended by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and European Council President Donald Tusk, Tsipras emphasized the huge efforts being made by Greek authorities to manage the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants and called for a more comprehensive European
Tsipras –Cameron on refugees issue
According to government sources, Cameron expressed his full support for Greece and an agreement was reached on setting up
- a bilateral team with British experts with knowhow in the readmission of Pakistanis, who will soon be coming to Athens.
The UK also offered
- assistance to the Greek coast guard in the form of personnel and on a technical level, they said.
Tsipras addressing the conference
Addressing the ‘Supporting Syria and the Region’ conference, Tsipras urged the international community to adopt a “long-term, strategic approach,” to the still-unfolding Syrian refugee crisis, focused on “effective and humane management of refugee flows.”
“The Syrian crisis has humanitarian consequences that will stay with us for decades. We cannot deal with them by building walls or pushing back people in the sea and risking deaths. We cannot push people from country to country, as if they are someone else’s responsibility,” he said, addressing the donors conference.
“I wonder what would have happened to millions of Syrians if Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon had decided to build walls or if all of Europe had said : ‘Refugees aren’t welcome here.
What happens in the Mediterranean is not our problem,'” he added, pointing out that the Syrian conflict was now in its sixth year “with no end in sight”.
“As the UN Secretary General said, the international community has a heavy responsibility for this crisis.”
We cannot afford to see the consequences of the crisis only in terms of geopolitics and public order,” Tsipras pointed out.
“Greece has experience first-hand the humanitarian consequences of this crisis, and we insist on dealing with this challenge with humanity and on the basis of international and European values. Since July we have faced flows of over 900,000 people, of which around 500,000 were Syrians.
“The cost of managing these flows and the burden on state capacities has been enormous. The coast guard has rescued more than 150,000 migrants, many of our islands have hosted more people daily than their population. And the people of Greece are doing all they can to support Syrian refugees.”
Tsipras for assistance to neighboring Syria countries
Tsipras called for a long-term approach and a “response that focuses on cooperation with and assistance to countries that neighbour Syria, which carry an enormous burden of millions of refugees.”
He called for pledges that ensure the integration of refugees in these countries while stemming migration flows.
- “We have discussed relevant projects on the basis of the EU-Turkey action plan and we must work harder for this plan to succeed. We must push for education programmes and brave economic initiatives that create employment opportunities in Jordan and Lebanon”
- “We must work on a robust resettlement programme to Europe and other countries,” he said.”
“At the same time, we need to press and support UN talks for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict that will end all attacks against civilians and confront terrorism.
- “A political settlement of the Syrian conflict that will create conditions for reconciliation and will return civilians to their homes.”
300.000 UN Pledge
The Greek Prime Minister announced that Greece pledges 300,000 euros to the UN for 2016.
“It is a symbolic sum, ” the Prime Minister said,
“but the daily struggle of the Greek people to support and host refugees is not symbolic it is priceless,” he said.
Tsipras also met with European Parliament President Martin Schulz.