Athens, December 11, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
The Foreign Ministry spokesman, Constantinos Koutras, made clarifications to reporters on the refugee crisis, stressing that Greece is fulfilling its obligations and will persist in Europe regarding its resolution.
Mr. Koutras said:
Everyone knows that the dimensions of the latest refugee/migration issue exceed the management capabilities of any State, of any size; and they stretch beyond the European level; it is a global crisis.
It is absurd for one to demand a Greek or any other national or unilateral solution weighing only one some, to a global issue. And yet this is happening, unfortunately, from several sides.
Many pretend, from a safe standpoint, that in Greece’s place they would have all the solutions ready, all the questions answered, all the structures in place, to deal with the unprecedented “tsunami” of refugee/migrant flows. Tragically that those screaming the loudest to criticize Greece are those who want to take the spotlight of negative publicity for their practices removed from them.
While they live in this virtual reality, Greece and the Greek people are experiencing the inexorable reality at the forefront of this issue, lifting Europe and European values on their backs despite the possible mistakes and the weaknesses inevitably caused in crises of terrifying proportions. Some facts and event speak for themselves:
- The Greek Coast Guard has saved more than 90,000 of our fellow citizens in recent months.
- The response of local communities to the plight of refugees / immigrants is a real example of the greatness of the human soul.
- Only in November 2015, of 54,000 recordings made in hotspots in Europe, 51,300 were made in Greece.
- Primary expenditure for dealing with the management of refugee/migrant flows are estimated at over 1.5 billion euros; in a state simultaneously undergoing unprecedented fiscal adjustment and without considering indirect costs and lost earnings due to the crisis.
Greece has from the very start pushed for uniform European and effective responses to the refugee/immigrant problem.
- It pushed from May already – when naval Operation Sophia in Libya was being planned – for there to be care in the Eastern Mediterranean where the refugee flows of the central Mediterranean would be directed.
- It pushed since last April for the increased presence of forces / vessels of FRONTEX in the Aegean – the response of the EU Member States was well short of what was needed. FRONTEX essentially exists because of Greece. From 2012 even it operates in the country for the support of Greek services in supervising and guarding our borders, firstly terrestrial (Evros) and then at sea (Poseidon, Aegean islands) and now terrestrial again on the border with FYROM.
- It pushed from July already for the activation of the rapid response teams, RABITs, on Aegean islands, which were successfully activated in 2012 at the land border with Turkey – the request was essentially rejected by FRONTEX because of failure to meet needs.
- It pushed for the operational control of the flow of refugees/migrants and the creation of hotspots in Turkey, as a real solution for the management of the refugee issue and the addressing of trafficking networks – this was dismissed.
- It pushed for the creation of new and the implementation of existing readmission agreements at European level aiming at the return of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin – the EU results are dispiriting, as everyone knows, with Pakistan, for example, recently refusing 20 of its nationals landing in Islamabad that had arrived with a special flight organized in cooperation with the EU.
- It pushed for at least 100 Eurodac indentification machines – just 39 have been allocated. However, all new arrivals were recorded and systematically fingerprinted.
- It pushed for a proper mechanism of equal burden-sharing between EU Member States through relocation. Unfortunately, to this day the system has failed with few exceptions. The relevant EU decisions at the highest level, not only are not applied, but it is announced that they will even be brought before the EU Court of Justice so that they do not apply. Who announce this? Those who are first to demand from Greece that it complies with all obligations fully, pointing the finger at the country.
Greece, despite any problems, omissions, or delays, will honor each and every one of its obligations. But it demands the same of everyone. The European Union ought to impose the same to all.
Many may devalue the European principle of “solidarity.” Greece insists and persists in the European way. And despite the fact that it is taking on the main weight of the refugee crisis that was caused by the wrong decisions of others, it remains a factor of stability and values, situated in the middle of an instability triangle consisting of Ukraine, Libya and Syria, with the latter being the gaping wound in the Middle East and the main source of war refugees.
Because Greece wants what those who honestly wish to protect the European idea from dissolving phenomena want: effective European external border control and coordination of a European response to any refugee / immigrant, to recording, identifying and dealing with it in a humane way; so the only way to preserve the Schengen acquis as a union of security, solidarity and freedom.
Finally, many may criticize the humane stance of Greece and its citizens towards refugees / immigrants for their own, demagogic, internal reasons. Greece insists and will continue to insist on the respect of all the International Humanitarian Law rules that are respected in all developed societies.
Greece insists and will continue to insist on respect for European values. This is non-negotiable, the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman said.