Migration Policy Minister Yannis Mouzalas urged European Union countries not to restore the Dublin Regulation which allows the return of asylum seekers to the first EU country they entered from, saying Greece cannot host any more refugees.
“We could welcome a very small group at most, as a symbol that we don’t reject the Dublin Regulations completely. Right now we have exhausted our capabilities. Of the agreed 32,000 refugees, only 10,000 have been relocated in other member-countries. Our position is very clear: We cannot host a single additional refugee. I am pleading to Europe’s common sense,” he was quoted as telling German magazine “Der Spiegel” in an interview published on Sunday.
Mouzalas said Greece is already burdened heavily by the 60,000 refugees living in its territory, a number that, in proportion to the population, is comparable to that of Germany.
“It would be wrong to burden Greece further with the restoration of the Dublin Regulations. We just managed to handle the situation with the housing of the refugees in the mainland and we are in the process of resolving issues on the islands. Pressure from Turkey on the refugee issue is also not lessening,” he said.
Asked by the magazine if he categorically rejects the Dublin Regulations, he said: “Yes, we are not in a position to implement the Dublin Regulations. I want the Germans to understand that this has nothing to do with political or ideological reasons or that we don’t truly appreciate Germany’s help. It’s just that Greece is unable to cope with the arrival of other refugees. We just managed to stand on our feet. Do not make us stumble again.”
Concerning the EU-Turkey agreement, the minister said it is “complex” and that grey areas remain, but “the deal is a success because refugee flows have been sharply limited even without fences. After the deal, only 60 refugees arrive daily.”
Mouzalas also said he considered “natural” to have delays in the return of Syrian refugees to Turkey because Greece is trying to implement international law “in each individual case”.
He also said that to help decongest the islands, Greece has asked permission from the EU to transfer some refugees in closed camps in the mainland, but has not received a reply yet.