New York, September 19, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke at the High-Level Meeting on large movements of refugees and migrants calling for humane and effective refugee and migration management.
The speech of the Greek Prime Minister:
I would like to warmly thank the Secretary General for today’s important initiative and the support of the UN to Greece.
The large movement of refugees and migrants is a global challenge that no State can face alone. Either we will manage to face it collectively, comprehensively and on the basis of our values, or we will fail.
What is worse, is that today we risk not only failing to address the challenge, but also betraying our values in the process. Nowhere is this more evident, than Europe.
A Europe shaken by the biggest migratory pressures since World War II and the effects of poverty, suppression and war in its broader neighborhood.
A Europe that is asking itself, if it is still possible to preserve social cohesion and security for its citizens, without violating international law and in particular the Geneva Convention.
The people of Greece – confronted by deep economic crisis – have faced this challenge every day for the last year and a half and their response is: YES. IT MUST BE.
We faced it when 1.2 million migrants entered our country.
We faced it when – through unilateral actions by others – our northern borders were closed.
We face it as we try to support the nearly 60,000 migrants stranded in Greece, and the new ones coming.
As our asylum service – which didn’t exist three years ago – deals with the fourth largest number of asylum applications in Europe.
As we, together with the Turkish and European Authorities, try to implement the very difficult, but necessary EU-Turkey Agreement.
An agreement that has led to the radical decrease of flows and, most importantly, deaths in the Aegean.
An agreement that is replacing the irregular, dangerous route to Europe, with a legal one based on resettlement.
The challenges in Greece are many, including strengthening the protection of borders and enhancing asylum procedures. But they can only work on the basis of shared responsibility and solidarity.
We need the promises made to Greece to be kept:
-many more European Asylum officials to support our asylum service and;
-many more relocations of refugees from Greece to other European countries.
At the same time, we need to enhance cooperation with Asian and African countries of origin and transit, including ensuring returns of people not in need of international protection.
If we do not agree – in today’s Declaration – to make a strong effort to replace dangerous migration routes with legal, humanitarian ones….
If we do not address the root causes of migration….
If we do not accelerate resettlement of refugees to countries around the world that can host them…
….we will fail.
And what is worse, we will give space to nationalistic, xenophobic forces to show their face. For the first time since World War II.
In Greece today, the challenge of HUMANE and effective refugee and migration management, is tested.
If we – the international community – fail in supporting this effort, not only social, but also political repercussions will be felt everywhere.