PM Tsipras: The migration and refugee issue is a European issue and Europe has finally understood it

The migration and refugee issue is a European issue and Europe has finally understood it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in Brussels early on Thursday, following an emergency meeting of leaders of European Union member-states on how to handle the overwhelming influx of people fleeing their home countries.

Calling the meeting’s results “a positive step,” Tsipras said, “Europe has understood even if late that the great issue of refugee and migrant flows is a European issue which calls for a European solution.” He added that the European Union could not operate on the rationale of “each member look after its own borders” and called for prioritizing “people first, then the economy.”

He confirmed that welcome centres set up at border countries that will register and house refugees will be in place by end-November, by which time the process of resettlement and return must have begun. Border countries must not become “depositories of souls,” he warned.

Tsipras said it was important to collaborate with transit countries, especially Turkey, “to end the image of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas as a watery tomb for refugees looking for a better life in Europe.”

EU leaders decided after a long meeting begun on Wednesday to earmark 1 billion euros for United Nations organisations, with the scope of helping Syrian refugees remaining in the Middle East.

European Council and European Commission presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, respectively, said they would host a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 5 to discuss how to control the number of migrants arriving in Greece from its neighbouring country. They also said the EU leaders agreed to tightening controls at Union border countries with personnel funded by the European Union.