World, Europe

'Europe owes Greece,' immigration minister says

Ioannis Mouzalas reacts to German suggestion that refugees could be returned to Greece

06.09.2016
'Europe owes Greece,' immigration minister says Refugees stage a protest as they demand the opening of the borders from Greek government, at Sintagma square in Athens, Greece on September 2, 2016. ( Ayhan Mehmet - Anadolu Agency )

Atina

By Vasiliki Mitsiniotou

ATHENS 

Immigration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas on Tuesday hit back at German criticism, accusing Europe of scapegoating Greece over the refugee crisis.

Mouzalas hit back at German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere’s call for refugees to be returned to Greece.

“Europe owes Greece,” Mouzalas said in a broadcast on Kokkino radio, labeling de Maiziere’s comments unhelpful and “out of place”. The minister went on to accuse de Maiziere of pandering to a domestic audience during an election campaign.

Germany has not returned migrants to Greece since 2011 and although more than 50,000 are waiting in Greece to be sent to other EU states, de Maiziere suggested the situation within Greece had improved sufficiently to merit the returns.

Mouzalas also criticized the EU for inconsistency and a lack of support, calling for the setting up of a “repatriation mechanism for those who are not entitled to asylum”.

He added: “Facing such a European problem, Europe makes promises which it doesn’t implement and points the figure at us.”

Greece was the European entry point for just under a million migrants last year, according to the UN refugee agency.

Despite an agreement in November to resettle 160,000 asylum seekers across Europe over two years, around 3,000 have been so far relocated from Greece to other EU members.

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