Greece will finance an extension of the fence at the Evros border from national coffers, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi said in an interview to the radio station “Parapolitika FM” on Wednesday, while noting that the sums involved were not large.
He noted the European Commission’s “continued refusal to finance the extension of the Evros fence or the Belarus-Poland fence” and spoke of “great ideological differences” within the EU, and differences of opinion between the European Commission and the European Council on these issues.
He also commented on the confrontation between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and a Dutch journalist, in a question on migration put during joint statements with Mitsotakis’ Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in Athens on Tuesday:
“Greece guards its borders. We made no secret of this, we said it clearly: we prevent illegal crossings. This is our sovereign right,” he said.
The migration minister noted that the “absolutes” claimed by human rights activists regarding what is said in international law “do not correspond to what international law actually says.”
“The person that is potentially in danger does not acquire a global right to free movement so that they can choose the country and place they want,” he added.
Mitarachi stressed that the migration issue in Europe had changed and that there was now an instrumentalisation of migrants, both in the case of the Greek-Turkish border and in the case of the Belarus-Poland, Lithuania-Latvia and North Africa-Spain borders.
“The migration issue is not the romantic refugee issue that some perhaps have in mind. These are now economic migrants in their great majority, as was apparent from our rescue of the ship in distress south of Crete, which Turkey refused to take back and we took in. Two thirds came from safe countries and the remaining one third came via safe countries, so we initiated a process with the embassies of Bangladesh and Pakistan to deport those that are in our country illegally,” the minister said.
Mitarachi stressed that Greece does not want to be a gateway for Europe: “If there are EU countries which consider that they must take in a great many more migrants, let them open their airports and take as many people as they want and give humanitarian visas to as many people as they like.”