Athens, October 12, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
The European Union should put an end to the option of the member countries to choose refugees, within the framework of the resettlement programme from their first arrival countries, because otherwise it will turn into an embarrassing “market of people”, denounced in an interview with Reuters agency the Greek deputy minister of Immigration Policy, Yannis Mouzalas.
The EU has approved a plan to relocate 160,000 refugees – mainly from Syria and Erythraia – to its 28 EU Member States, in a bid to tackle the worst refugee crisis in the continent after the Second World War. The first 19 asylum seekers from Eritrea were transferred Friday from Italy to Sweden.
Some countries, such as Slovakia, have expressed a “preference” to the Christian refugees, while Hungary argues that the large number of Muslim immigrants are threatening the “Christian values” of Europe.
The minister noted that Greece finds it difficult to find refugees to send in some countries, because they have put “racial criteria” as he called them. He avoided however to name these countries.
“Opinions like, ‘we want 10 Christians’ or ’75 Muslims’ or ‘we want them tall, blond, with blue eyes and three children”, are an offence to the personality and freedom of refugees. Europe should strongly oppose this practice” Mouzalas stressed, urging Brussels to adopt strict quotas “because, otherwise, it will turn into a market of people and Europe has no right to do that”.
Many thousands of immigrants, mainly Afghans, have been trapped in Greece, because the European authorities are reluctant to systematically treat them as refugees, thereby excluding them from the resettlement programme. “It is absurd to believe that the Afghans come to find a better job. There’s a long war (in Afghanistan), you are not safe anywhere, this is the reality”, Mouzalas point out.
According to the minister, the five registration centers and identification of refugees – the so-called hotspots – that will be created in Lesvos, Kos, Chios, Samos and Leros, will start operation within one month. Greece, he added, hopes that the resettlement will reach 10,000 persons every two months or 70,000 annually.
Referring to border controls to reduce refugee flows, Mouzalas said that Athens can’t lawfully hold the refugees who are free to continue on their way. “We can’t control the flow through the sea. We will be forced to sink boats. We need legal ways, otherwise traffickers will control the flow”, he added.
He also called on the EU to face Turkey generously, giving “incentives and rewards” such as financial support for hosting refugees in its territory, and said the two countries could consider a closer collaboration between the port authorities.
Greece hopes that the cessation of migration flows during the winter, will be better prepared for the coming summer. Mouzalas warned however, that “if tomorrow Damascus falls”, no storm will stand in the way of refugees. “The flow would increase and the number of deaths would increase”, he concluded.