Mouzalas: The blame game towards Greece on refugee issue is unfair

2 December 2015
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Greece hit back at threats from some EU states to suspend it from the Schengen area because of its failure to guard its borders and control large numbers of migrants entering Europe, Reuters say.

Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas talked about the issue following Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s statements on excluding Greece from Schengen area.

“It is not said officially, but there is pressure,” he told reporters, commenting a Financial Times report.

“There are very common lies for Greece … This blame game towards our country is unfair,” he said.

He also denied that Athens had refused an EU offer of devices designed to share the identity data of incoming migrants.

Also, the Financial Times said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn had conveyed a suspension warning on a visit to Athens this week, but Mr. Mouzalas denied it.

However, there are many diplomats who said that issue had not been formally discussed by EU governments.

“We are working to maintain Schengen and make it work properly,” an EU official said. “The moment of truth will be the December European Council,” the official said, referring to the next meeting of EU leaders in Brussels in two weeks’ time.

Reuters also reports that Greece allowed to hundreds of thousand people to enter Greece and travel from Greek islands to northern Greece so as to get to Germany, which is their destination.

Regarding Turkey’s role, Mouzalas said that as long as Turkey did not shut down people smugglers operating on its coastline, Athens could not stop frail boats packed with refugees from landing on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

He also mentioned that he had taken EU ambassadors out to sea to watch arrivals and asked what Athens should do.

“They don’t dare to ask us ‘drown them’, but if you do push-back on a plastic boat in the middle of the sea with 50 or 70 refugees aboard, you’re asking me to drown them,” the minister said.

Another EU diplomat said: “The Greek position is moving in the necessary direction.” Therefore, a discussion of suspension from Schengen area this week may not be needed.

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