Tsipras notes Greece’s role in tackling migration in meeting with Avramopoulo

The portfolio of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship has become one of the most important in the European Union, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said while receiving European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday in Athens.

Tsipras said it was positive that there was a common stance on the issue and that Greece has found support on the refugee crisis. “Our country is on the frontline,” he said, adding that the crisis does not only concern the countries of first reception but Europe as a whole.

On his part, Avramopoulos said that the Commission’s aim is to protect the Schengen zone at all costs. “If the Schengen zone collapses that will be the beginning of the end of Europe,” he warned, noting the existence of “some worrying trends”.

He then praised Greece’s contribution in handling migration. “The situation in Greece has clearly improved compered to two years ago, with everyone’s coordinated efforts: the Commission, the member-states and of course the Greek authorities. But we must remain in alert,” he said, adding that the Commission will continue to support Greece in every way it can.

Avramopoulos also expressed his concern for the living conditions of refugees ahead of winter. “The reception conditions for migrants must be kept at consistently high standards. Winter is coming and all migrants must be housed in dignified conditions that protect them from the cold. The decongestion of the islands will contribute to this, and this is why the procedures for implementing the EU-Turkey deal must be speeded up,” he said.

“Also, the acceleration of the procedure on the islands, as foreseen by the deal, will break up the business model of traffickers who continue to exploit human lives.”

He said he invited all member-states to support relocation from Greece and Italy and called for an agreement on his proposal to reform the Dublin Regulation. “The revision of the Common European Asylum System is the only solution for a fair and efficient system that will withstand possible future crises,” he said.