Party leaders to meet before Brussels talks; refugee numbers pass 30,000

4 March 2016
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Greece’s political leaders are due to meet on Friday in an attempt to find common ground on the refugee crisis ahead of Monday’s summit between the European Union and Turkey.

In preparation for Friday’s talks with the opposition chiefs, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chaired a meeting of his cabinet on Thursday to determine the government’s key goals at Monday’s gathering in Brussels.

According to sources, Tsipras said that he would seek to highlight that Greece has met its obligations to the EU and although it is increasing the number of temporary places it has to host arrivals, it will not accept refugees being trapped in the country for long periods of time. Athens will also insist that the summit’s conclusions refer to the need for the relocation program to be implemented and for refugees to be relocated directly from Turkey.

“At Monday’s summit, Greece will demand that burden-sharing be equitable among all countries in the bloc, and sanctions for those that do not,” Tsipras said after meeting European Council President Donald Tusk earlier in the day. “We ask that unilateral actions stop in Europe.”

Tusk, who later traveled to Turkey, warned economic migrants not to join refugees in trying to reach the EU. “I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing,” he said.

The Greek government announced Thursday the creation of a committee to coordinate the various ministries dealing with the refugee crisis. Its first task was to provide data on the number of migrants currently in Greece. It put the number at more than 30,000, with at least 10,000 located in Idomeni, on Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

FYROM’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki called on Greece to move migrants away from the border area so they can receive “safe and humane” treatment.

“This is really not a solution,” Poposki said of the Idomeni camp, which is expanding in size as more migrants pitch tents. “If you really care about these people they should be hosted in reception centers that can host such a large number of people.”

Poposki told the Associated Press that there should be closer cooperation with Greece “to avoid any kind of dramatic evolution on the ground.”

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