Six refugee families, two Iraqi families and four from Syria, departed with destination Luxembourg. Among them was a pregnant woman and two children with special needs. Their selection was based on criteria for “vulnerability” in cooperation of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Asylum Office.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Union Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greek Deputy Minister on Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas participated in the ceremony and spoke to the press.
With a photo of three elderly women from Lesvos feeding a refugee infant as a backdrop, Tsipras said that it is time to stop the human sacrifices in the Aegean Sea and show humanity, solidarity and responsibility, “principles that should govern the European Union.”
The Greek prime minister said that despite the fact that Greeks are in the midst of a crisis, they show their humanity at every opportunity. “The Europe we want to live in is not a Europe that raises walls and towers of barbed wire… If we begin to raise walls between people, then hope will go away,” Tsipras said.
Tsipras reiterated that Greece is not the entry way to Europe but part of the hallway, and that the actual point of entry is Turkey. He stressed that the identification process should be done by the Turkish authorities and not on Greek islands.
The President of the European Parliament said that the smiles of the refugees departing for Europe is the most important image that he has seen recently. Schulz stressed that the refugee problem is a European problem and called for cooperation between states in order to jointly address it.
On his turn, Avramopoulos said the relocation of refugees in the countries of Europe should become standard procedure and upon showing the photo of the Lesvos women said, “This photo shows the solidarity and collective effort required to address the refugee issue.”
“What you saw today, should be made a routine,” Mouzalas said, stressing that it shouldn’t be a routine to see pictures of people who have drowned.
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister said that the current process is a symbolic gesture, stressing that, “we need to move fast… I am here to ensure that we are not erecting fences and barbed wire, because we need solidarity.” Asselborn concluded by saying, “If we fail, we will destroy the basic principles and values of the European Union.”