(Reuters) – Greece needs to deliver quickly on its promise to provide accommodation for 50,000 refugees and the European Union should help Athens with this task, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a media interview published on Saturday.
Austria, one of the last stepping stones to Germany for hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants, recently imposed border restrictions, setting off a domino effect in Europe and leaving tens of thousands stranded in poor conditions in Greece.
“Originally, Greece should have created 50,000 accommodation places for refugees by the end of 2015,” Merkel told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag.
“The backlog must be resolved now at lightning speed because the Greek government has to guarantee decent accommodation.”
Merkel, under pressure to reduce the number of new arrivals after more than one million migrants entered Germany last year, said Greece could count on more help from other EU states.
“I know from my talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that he wants to do this, but that he needs our help, and that’s why the EU must and will support Greece in solidarity.”
She also said that Austria and Balkan countries were largely to blame for the changed situation in Greece by deciding unilaterally to impose borders controls.
Tsipras has accused Austria and Balkan countries of “ruining Europe” by imposing border restrictions to slow the flow of migrants heading north from Greece.
By contrast, Merkel’s Bavarian ally said the imposition of border controls by Austria and other countries was benefiting Germany by reducing the number of new arrivals.
“There is a turning point in the refugee policy due to the closure of large parts of the Balkan route,” Horst Seehofer told Der Spiegel magazine.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Ros Russell)