Tsipras unleashes scathing criticism of refugee asylum draft bill in Parliament

The government is turning the migration issue into a national and Greek-Turkish issue, instead of an international and European one, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said during scathing criticism of the draft bill on migrants and refugee asylum applivants discussed in Parliament before a vote late on Thursday.

Describing the bill as fixated on wrong ideas and ineffective, the main opposition leader charged the government with “adopting a slippery-slope rationale on national interests that combine the refugee crisis with major issues in Greek-Turkish relations.”

Among the criticism levelled at the government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Tsipras noted the abolition of the Migration Policy ministry, “transforming the refugee issue into one of suppression,” the creation of hotspots with inhumane conditions, the lack of preparation of local communities to welcome refugees, and what he called “silence of the weak” before Turkey’s expansionist cries and illegal drilling in the Cyprus EEZ.

By renaming the refugee issue a migration one, “to satisfy a large segment of your voters,” he charged, “you made a wrong choice because, among other things, European partners will ask you, ‘Why do you ask of us to relocate migrants if they are migrants, and why are you asking us for a revision of the Dublin Treaty? You should work it out with their countries of origin’.”

In addition, the Syriza leader also rejected criticism that his government had returned only 1,800 people to other countries. “This is true,” he said, “but there were also another 17,500 voluntary returns and 10,000 family reunions, and 22,000 relocations – therefore, a total of 50,000 people left Greece. Are you going to return 50,000 to Turkey?”

Certain regulations of the bill, he said, contravene international law, the Geneval Agreement and EU directives. “We call on New Democracy (ND) and its government to respect the rule of law and issue health-care identification numbers (AMKA) to all categories of claimants,” Tsipras said. “We have already witnessed emergency incidents, people who don’t have access to medical services and drugs, and doctors are forced to violate ND’s law in order to respect their Hippocratic oath. We have seen refugee children that cannot register at nursery and primary school.”

The draft law will “make life difficult for those applying for asylum,” he said. Trying to resolve the issue “with far-right smartalecky moves, nationalist lies and right-wing suppression, nobody can manage the refugee issue,” he concluded.