File photo: Πρόσφυγες και μετανάστες στον καταυλισμό της Μόριας στη Λέσβο. EPA, STRATIS BALASKAS
The government’s overall plan for migration and for supporting local communities that shoulder the greater part of the burden from refugees and migrants was presented by government spokesmperson Stelios Petsas and Deputy Defence Minister Alkiviadis Stephanis on Wednesday.
Petsas said that the government has planned out a different policy for managing refugees and migration. “We seek, in principle, to internationalise the issue and formulate a common European policy. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has raised the issue in all his contacts with European leaders at the United Nations and the EU Summit. We stress the need for accountability and solidarity, increasing the role of Frontex, changing the Dublin framework, shaping a common European asylum policy, but also the fair sharing of the burdens,” he said. Petsas stressed that the government’s policy is based on four principles: more effective border protection, speeding up the processing of asylum applications, increased returns for migrants and closed pre-departure centres.
A message to those who are thinking of entering the country illegally
As the government spokesperson said, the law on speeding up and tightening procedures for examining asylum applications has already been passed and the government will establish closed pre-departure centres. “A clear message must be sent to those who are planning or thinking of entering the country illegally despite knowing that they are not entitled to asylum. They must understand – as the prime minister has repeatedly emphasised – that if they give their money to a trafficker to bring them to Greece, they will spend their money for nothing,” he said.
According to Stephanis, the top priority at this stage is the decongestion of the islands, with the transportation of 20,000 migrants from the islands on the mainland.
According to the deputy minister, the goal is to transfer 20,000 migrants from the Aegean islands by the beginning of 2020.
The second phase and in plans for the medium term, 5 + 1 actions have been decided focusing on unaccompanied children, NGOs, asylum and returns, constructing and expanding closed facilities on the islands and the establishment of a single border surveillance body to help “seal and secure” migrant routes.
Stephanis also referred to the need to support local communities bearing the brunt of the migration crisis by extending lower VAT until the end of 2020.