The government of New Democracy has reversed the relaxed attitude of the recent past in dealing with the migration issue, Alternate Citizen Protection Minister George Koumoutsakos, responsible for migration policy, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) in an interview published Sunday.
He also said that the government considers the role of security a highly important issue. “The government places great emphasis on the issue of security, without discounting respect in human rights,” he noted.
Asked what would help local communities accept migrants and refugees, Koumoutsakos spoke of “migration exhaustion” in the Greek public. “I understand the stress of local communities. Undoubtedly, there is now – five years after the great crisis of 2015 – a ‘migration exhaustion’,” he said. “The same people who used to open their hearts and homes to help a few years ago, today double-lock their doors.”
But, he added, “The situation on the Aegean islands reached an insufferable point, and sensitive groups among those requesting asylum had to be moved to mainland facilities. It was an obligation and a duty to our fellow-Greeks who live in border areas of the country, and to the migrants themselves who lived under extremely difficult conditions in overflowing reception centers.
“That’s why the government is in close contact with regional directors and mayors. I would like to believe that solidarity will be offered generously in the end,” he said.
Koumoutsakos also spoke of raising the refugee/asylum issue to international level. As he told ANA-MPA, “We demand greater support from partners and allies. We are Europe’s border, not to mention the West’s: Our borders equal our security and their security.”
Referring to the return of migrants based on the EU-Turkey Joint Statement, the minister noted, “The EU can weigh in heavily, compared to every member-state individually. In this way, we could manage more effectively the entire issue of the limited returns that other EU countries also face. It’s a detailed Greek initiative we will introduce at the Council of Justice and Interior Affairs on Monday, in Brussels.”
Commenting on what he would look for in the next president of Greece, the minister said, “I deeply believe in the insitution of the presidency. I believe that the president, as a regulator of the state, should have political experience. It’s not the only criterion, but I believe it’s very important.”Koumoutsakos to ANA-MPA: Our European partners must understand our security is theirs as well