Alt. Migration Minister criticizes the countries of the Visegrad Group for insisting that borders should close

Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas criticized on Tuesday the countries of the Visegrad Group – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – for insisting that borders should close, saying they are affected by xenophobia and are targeting Greece.

“We are all united – even the opposition – on the issue of closing borders. We don’t take the tablets and personal items of the refugees and we don’t agree with push-backs,” he said during a press briefing on the refugee crisis and the government’s work in setting up identification and registration centers on several islands of the eastern Aegean.
He also reiterated his concern that the government should prepare for “worst circumstances,” but also singled out countries like Germany, France, Spain and Italy, saying they don’t agree with the Visegrad Four.

“The completion of the work at the 5 plus 2 centers is in our own best interest as it gives our country the opportunity to show it is not a free-for-all and on the other hand that the government is examining the issue of refugees in a humanitarian way so that refugees may live with dignity and have their rights,” Mouzalas said and extolled – along with all speakers – the efforts of the Armed Forces for the completion of the hotspots in five islands, saying they were the ones that did the hard work.

The minister also reiterated his concerns over the participation of NATO in the return of refugees and migrants to Turkey, saying there might be “missteps or victims” because “the situation at sea is very difficult.”

In his statements to the press, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos reiterated that NATO’s intervention concerns only the supervision, surveillance, and alerting of the competent authorities – if the incident takes place in Turkish waters, the Turkish coastguard – if it’s in Greek territorial waters, the coast guard. NATO will also inform both sides on migrant and refugee boats sailing from the Turkish coast so that coastguards comply with the agreement reached at the recent meeting of defense ministers of NATO member-states.

Taking his turn, Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Toskas noted that the drop in migrant flows in the past few days (from 2,500 people three days ago to 250 yesterday and zero today) “supports our view that Turkey plays a key role in reducing the refugee flows. Words are not enough. We’ll wait and see what it does.”

Presenting the latest data on migration and progress in the construction of the hotspots, the head of the Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration, Lieutenant

Konstantinos Floros said that the registration and identification centers in Lesvos, Chios and Leros are fully operational and can accommodate 1,500, 1,000 and 600 people respectively, while the one in Samos is 50 pct operational.

Floros also said that 35,000 refugees and migrants have entered Greece since the start of the year.