German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert on Wednesday repeated the German government’s “complete confidence” in the actions taken by the Greek government on migration. He said the “key” to improving the situation on the Greek islands was to implement the returns to Turkey envisaged under the EU-Turkey Joint Statement.
He said Berlin was very carefully monitoring the situation on the Greek islands and said the recent increase in arrivals “must be taken seriously into account”. At the same time, he added, arrivals continue to be lower than those prior to the EU-Turkey agreement.
Seibert also noted, however, that a comparison of arrivals by land and sea in September 2019 with the same month in 2018 showed an increase of 8 pct. It was imperative to pay attention to this development, he added, and for this reason “we are in contact with both the Greek and Turkish side.”
The central idea behind the EU-Turkey agreement was to “guarantee to refugees in Turkey sufficient security and create prospects so that they have no reason to migrate to the EU,” he said. Many of the things planned and agreed under the deal had not been implemented “as we would have wished,” in recent years, the spokesperson said.
“The new Greek government shares this viewpoint and itself says that there must be better implementation. And we have complete confidence that will take the right steps,” Seibert said, noting that Germany was ready to provide support both bilaterally and within the framework of the EU.
He confirmed that the issue was discussed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during their recent meeting in Berlin.
Asked whether conditions at the reception and identification centres on the Greek islands were compatible with the “European way of life” – a reference to the portfolio to be given to the new Greek European commissioner Margaritis Schinas – Seibert said that conditions on the Greek island have been “very difficult” but European support “was not absent” and must never be absent.
It was absolutely clear that wherever migrants and refugees are hosted in Europe their dignity must be respected, Seibert said, while noting that the EU-Turkey agreement envisages the return of migrants to Turkey “and those seeking asylum must be able to return to Turkey so that protection can be provided to them there, as Turkey has done millions of times.”
He pointed out that Europe was also providing financial assistance in this, giving Turkey two installments of three billion euros.