‘Member states must deploy more personnel to Greece’
Following a visit to Athens on Saturday, foreign minister Bert Koenders said that EU member states must do more to help Greece receive and register migrants and resettle refugees. Mr Koenders was in the city to meet with five of his EU colleagues and visit a registration centre. ‘Greece is facing an incredibly difficult challenge. They can count on our solidarity and urgently need our assistance,’ said Mr Koenders.
The minister believes that there are more than enough opportunities for member states to help. ‘The police needs help and there is a shortage of interpreters, judges and legal advisers. But help can also be easily offered in the form of logistical support, food or supplies,’ he said, and can really make a difference.
‘On Lesbos and Chios the Netherlands has contributed a large team of around 85 experts to help register refugees,’ explained Mr Koenders. In addition, the Netherlands has contributed six experts to the European Asylum Support Office and is providing emergency aid. Last year, the Netherlands contributed €1.5 million to UNHCR and the Red Cross. It also provided aid supplies like sleeping bags, blankets, field beds, generators and hygiene kits.
The Netherlands took the initiative for the ministers’ visit to Greece in its capacity as holder of the EU Presidency. Mr Koenders travelled to Athens with Portuguese, French, Slovak, Maltese and Italian colleagues. They met with several Greek leaders, including President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and several other ministers, to discuss how Greece is coping with the migration crisis.
Now that the migration agreement with Turkey has been signed, the ministers wanted to see the situation in Greece for themselves. ‘A credible start has been made on implementing the EU-Turkey deal,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘Now we must stay on top of it and ensure progress continues.’
To this end, the ministers visited a refugee registration centre near Athens. ‘Today, I’ve once again seen the reality for those who leave their homes and lives behind. The pain, suffering and sadness involved are unimaginable,’ said the minster after meeting refugees. ‘I admire the aid workers, who are doing everything they can to ensure that refugees are received properly and that refugees’ asylum applications are processed quickly.’
Mr Koenders believes that the migration agreement will make people smuggling a much less attractive option, thereby reducing the chance that migrants will risk their lives on dangerous sea crossings. It also creates a safe and fair legal migration route for refugees to enter the EU. ‘Only by supporting one another and working with Turkey can we put an end to the illegal migration and human suffering.’