Participating in a major meeting held in Mytilene to discuss the migrant and refugee crisis, Greek caretaker Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou on Sunday stressed that Greece strictly abides by all European and international treaties, without overlooking humanitarian values and solidarity. She said that “isolated voices” only criticize Greece for its handling of the refugee issue.
“To all those, who from the safety of neighboring with partners in the heart of Europe, express easy criticism of our country, we urge them to consider the size of the responsibility of guarding European borders along 16,000 miles of coast line,” she said.
The prime minister then chaired a meeting attended by a representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the General Secretariat for Island Policy, the North Aegean Region authority, the Mytilene municipality, police force, coast guard, fire brigade, army, the emergency services and the local hospital.
“Greece is handling an extremely serious international and European problem: the migrant and refugee issue that was recently significantly enlarged and coincided with the term of the caretaker government,” Thanou noted in her opening remarks. She stressed that Greece was strictly implementing all treaties without overlooking the need to show solidarity and to respect the dignity of those fleeing violence and human rights violations at home.
Calling the criticism against Greece “unacceptable,” she urged the critics to consider whether the “Europe of values can be build, once again, by erecting walls.”
Outlining the main thrust of her government’s efforts, Thanou said that a crucial role was played by the coordinating body set up by the caretaker government, with staff from all the ministries and agencies involved in handling migration and refugee issues. She also announced that procedures for setting up a managing authority, were near completion and that the country would be in a position to receive the first installment of 33 million euros in cash assistance from the European Commission by September 15.
The prime minister said that a new temporary hospitality center for refugees will soon open in Attica to decongest the city center, as well as a similar center in the Thessaloniki area to ease the pressure of migrant flows to Idomeni in Northern Greece.
She added that her visit had confirmed reports that the situation on Lesvos was much improved, following the departure of roughly 20,000 refugees and migrants in recent days.
FINALLY, she promised that “her efforts will continue at the same intense pace.”