PM Mitsotakis Says Greece Will ‘Shut the Door’ to Illegal Immigration

KOS, GREECE - JUNE 04: Hundreds of migrant men, women and children along with tourists and locals board a ferry bound for Athens on June 04, 2015 in Kos, Greece. Many migrants are continuing to arrive on the Greek Island of Kos from Turkey. The Island has recently seen a …
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Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced that his government will deploy over a thousand more border guards, upgrade its sea patrols, and institute more restrictive holding centres for migrants as he said his country will “shut the door” to illegals.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis, who heads the centre-right government elected in July, told parliament on Friday that he would hire 400 border guards to patrol Greece’s land border with Turkey and 800 for the country’s many islands.

“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose. Those who are not welcomed will be returned,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said in comments reported by Ekathimerini. “We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter although they are not entitled to asylum.”

The member of the liberal-conservative New Democracy party also said that he plans to shut down the islands’ overcrowded migrant camps, move some 20,000 migrants to the mainland, and replace the camps with holding centres. The new facilities are expected to be ready by July 2020.

Civil society group Médecins Sans Frontières has already complained that the centres “may become prisons” to which non-governmental organisations will have no access. Human rights organisations have also criticised the Greek government’s proposed new framework for speeding up asylum decision-making, claiming the “rushed” processes could be unfair on asylum seekers.

While on Thursday, Greek migration minister George Koumoutsakos criticised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for “blackmailing” Europe by threatening to “open the gates” to 3.6 million Middle Eastern migrants unless Turkey receives more money. Under the 2016 EU-Turkey deal, Turkey was to secure its borders in exchange for aid; however, Greece has said it has seen a 240 per cent increase in landings since May.

Mitsotakis’s announcement comes after a new surge in illegal landings on the islands, with Greek media reporting that the country’s coast guard had picked up 400 migrants in the last 24 hours in ten different incidents in the Mediterranean alone.

Greece was the main gateway for migrants at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015-2016, with 850,000 of the more than one million asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean landing in Greece.

New Democracy won the July elections in a landslide, replacing Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza party. While there is the temptation to draw parallels between Mitsotakis, with this tough display of rhetoric on migration, to the right-populist former deputy prime minister of Italy Matteo Salvini, it is too early to predict if there will be follow-through as there was in Italy, where Mr Salvini’s interior ministry managed to dramatically reduce the number of illegal landings by taking a robust stance against illegal immigration.

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