Friday, November 6, 2015

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, along with European Parliament the President Martin Schulz, visited the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Thursday (5.11) for a close hand examination of the humanitarian work and the rescue and management project carried out to tackle to the refugee crisis.

"Our vision is to have a Europe without walls, without fences, without borders," Tsipras noted, reminding that there are still external EU borders with Turkey. "What is happening in the Aegean is a crime that must be stopped," he said, arguing that the proper handling of the problem requires the right infrastructure from the Greek side, as well ascooperation with Turkey to stem the flow. Greece is “battling something beyond our abilities” Tsipras remarked, adding that “what is required is an agreement with Turkey" to combat traffickers. Tsipras stressed that the only way to effectively stop the criminal activities of human smugglers is identify and registrer refugees on the Turkish coastline.

Witnessing the dramatic situation on the island, Schulz hailed the work done by Greek authorities, adding however that more needs to be done. He underlined the need for all five ‘hotspot’ facilities for migrant registration to be set up as soon as possible, for the relocation process to be pushed forward and for an “honest discussion” with Turkey on cooperation.

Lesbos has received over half of about 600,000 refugees and migrants who arrived in Greece this year, mostly via its long Mediterranean Sea boundary with Turkey. At a joint press conference with Schulz on Wednesday (4.11), Tsipras called on the EU to provide greater assistance to Athens and confirmed that the construction of 'hotspots' is nearly complete and that, by January, Greece would create space for 20,000 refugees to be temporarily hosted, while awaiting relocation.