Greek govt condemn Migration Minister's hostile reception

Angry residents chant, throw stones, coffee, eggs and fireworks

10 February, 14:48

    (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, 10 FEB - Greece's government has condemned a hostile reception received by Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis on a visit to the Evros land border checkpoint and refugee reception center in the region of Orestiada in the country's northwest.

    Mitarakis, who visited the area on Monday, is leading a controversial plan to increase the capacities of the local reception and identification center for asylum seekers and the pre-departure detention facility.

    And under a tight police escort, Mitarakis was met with a hail of stones, firecrackers, eggs and plastic cups of coffee as local residents gathered to express their strong opposition to the plans in the town's central square, where hundreds had gathered to make their sentiments clear.

    The President of the Evros Outpost Community, Christos Tyrbakis, went on record to claim that Mitarakis stated angrily that if he wanted to, he will bring 10,000 asylum seekers to the area if the locals attempt to prevent the government's plans.

    Tyrbakis told reporters: "Mr. Mitarakis was clearly annoyed when I informed him about the local community group's opposition to the plans. He got angry and stood up, seemingly ready to bang his hand down on the table. He then said, 'I will proceed with my plans, and if I want I will bring 10,000 people here.' I told him that we will not back down, and that we will use all of the means at our disposal to stop his plans, and then I got up and left the room." Mitarakis has since taken to Twitter on Tuesday to pour cold water on Tyrbakis' claims, tweeting via his personal account: "All of us who were at the meeting and saw the statement of the president of the Outpost Community made via a video on facebook were surprised by the transfer of false information. It seems that the only reason he came to the meeting was to create tension with his statement to the local community." Mitarakis added: "I think the fact that I have been in touch multiple times here shows my sincere willingness to talk. Also, the fact that we have just 168 people (living in the KYT) in a place with 700 beds makes the government's policy to reduce flows and the non-stay of asylum seekers in Evros clear." In late January, the Regional Council of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace has already reaffirmed its unequivocal position against any plan to expand the facility.

    The Migration Ministry has insisted that the expansion is necessary due to the fact that the average monthly arrival of refugees and migrants over the last four years amounts to 811 people, and because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the existing facilities are deemed inadequate for quarantine, as well as registration and identification purposes.

    The ruling party New Democracy released a media statement condemning the hostile reception received by Mitarakis.

    "We unequivocally condemn the attack that the Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Mr. Mitarakis, received outside the Orestiada City Hall; no form of extreme behavior is going to stop the Ministry's constant efforts for dialogue with the citizens of Evros," it said.

    While it also condemned the attack, opposition party KINAL stressed the need for the Prime Minister's direct action on the migrant issue in Evros.

    "Evros must not become a 'warehouse of lost souls', and the Eastern Aegean must cease to act as something similar' the chapter that was opened in March 2016 with the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration must be closed," said KINAL's media statement.

    The statement added: "Greece and the European Union need to collect the keys to the refugee crisis from [Turkey President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. The government must stand up to the European institutions for a common European policy on asylum and immigration, which does not work to the detriment of the country and the refugees. A coalition for the proportional distribution of asylum seekers throughout the Member States is the only way for all parties in the democratic arc. The Prime Minister must assume his responsibilities and stop hiding behind his ministers." It remains to be seen how the dialogue between the government and the Evros community will play out, but it is clear that the government will not face an easy ride in trying to force through their plans on the migration issue.

    Opposition is rife also on the East Aegean islands with similar government plans to build new closed centers. While a new replacement site on Lesvos for the current 'tent city' camp at Kara Tepe has been controversially approved by local municipalities recently, there is vehement opposition for a similar plan on Chios.

    Local communities on Chios staged a protest rally on Saturday against the creation of a new, closed and controlled reception and identification center in the area of Tholos.

    Resident groups spoke out through a joint press statement, defiantly claiming that they will no longer accept the government's "organized plan to turn our islands in prisons".

    The plans for the new facility were announced last week by Mitarakis, immediately drawing strong reactions against the move from community groups in the nearby villages of Sykiada, Langada and Vrontadou.

    The government plans to replace the current much-maligned VIAL reception and identification center, which has been operating since 2016 and is home to 2,340 people, despite having a maximum capacity for only 1,040. (ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved

    Business opportunities

    The information system of business
    opportunities abroad

    News from Mediterranean