The Greek government has said it will not accept Germany returning migrants who have crossed its borders, insisting Greece is already overwhelmed.
The Greek official spoke on condition of anonymity, The Times reports, due to his closeness to talks with the European Union (EU) on the migrant returns, which could begin next in September.
“It would be tragic if not hugely nonsensical for Greece to take back refugees from Germany and other European countries as it battles to manage 60,000 refugees and migrants already stranded here,” the official said.
“It’s not an issue of Greece not wanting, rather of it not being able, to take back refugees because it simply does not have the space.
“Accommodation facilities are already up to the brim with refugees. They are at breaking point.”
The statement could inflame tensions between the two nations, and comes after some commentators accused Germany of encouraging the migration wave by initially suspending the Dublin agreement and promising to accept an unlimited number of ‘refugees’.
The official said Berlin and Athens were in contact about the plan but Greece was prepared to accept no more than 50 migrants in shelters in the capital and in the historic city of Thebes.
“It will just be a symbolic gesture,” he said. “We want to show that Greece is upholding its side of its commitments in this migration crisis.”
Under the Dublin agreement, migrants are supposed to be returned to the first safe EU nation they enter and was initially put in place to ensure migrants didn’t submit multiple asylum applications in different member states.
Germany suspended the rules in August 2015, at the height of the migrant crisis, and in 2016 just 0.36 per cent of those applying for asylum in the nation had not already passed through another safe EU nation.
Mr. Merkel has been criticised by her coalition partners in government and the right wing AfD party for her response to the migrant crisis, and with Federal Elections next month is attempting to look tough on the issue.
Easier this month, Ioannis Mouzalas, the Greek migration minister, told the German public service broadcaster ARD that Berlin’s demand for the refugee returns was part of Mrs. Merkel’s election strategy.