Greece: Armin Laschet calls for a European solution to the refugee crisis

The NRW Minister President has visited refugee camps in Greece and praised the government there. Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki offers help.

During a visit to Greece, North Rhine-Westphalia\’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) has called for a European solution to the refugee crisis in Greece. “The refugees are treading Greek soil, but they are also treading European soil,” said Laschet at a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. That is why this crisis can only be solved together on a European level.

If the security of the EU\’s external border in Greece is protected and humanitarian aid for the refugees is secured, then “order has been established for Europe as well”, said Laschet. The German Presidency of the Council, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) wanted to work on this. CDU vice-president Laschet will apply for the federal CDU presidency in December.

Greece has managed to control the influx of refugees to a large extent, said Mitsotakis. This was also recognized by the German side. Laschet told the Greek politician: “You have brought order to the system.”

For years, the EU has made little progress in reaching agreement on a planned common asylum reform. Italy, Malta, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are pressing for a binding mechanism for the distribution of migrants. Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia want the opposite. In a letter to the EU Commission, the seven countries stress their rejection of a compulsory distribution “in any form”. In September, the EU Commission plans to present new proposals.

Laschet wants to visit the overcrowded refugee camps on the island of Lesbos on Tuesday. Many people who enter the European Union illegally from Turkey are stranded on the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean. The situation in Greece has been getting worse and worse for weeks. Neighbouring Turkey has not taken back any migrants who are not granted asylum in Greece since March because of the Corona pandemic. However, this is at the heart of the 2016 agreement with the EU, and in this context Athens has significantly increased its border controls since the events of March.

Athens has admittedly brought more than 14,000 migrants from Lesbos to the mainland since the beginning of the year to relieve the camps. Nevertheless, the problem has not been solved. Around 14,000 people still live in and around the Moria camp, which is designed for just under 3,000 people.

Germany announced that by the end of August it would accept a total of 928 people from Greece. This number is still far from being reached. Recently, Minister of the Interior Seehofer had also spoken out against individual states voluntarily taking in additional refugees. Specifically, this concerned plans by the Berlin Senate that 300 people from Greek camps should have come to the capital.

On Monday Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne also announced that he wanted to accommodate refugees from Greek camps in his archdiocese. “We in the Archdiocese of Cologne are ready to receive people,” said the Archbishop. The people had not given up their homes because they wanted to come to Germany at all costs, “but because they could no longer bear it because of a terrible war or catastrophic humanitarian conditions,” said Woelki.

Woelki had already called for refugees to be taken from the Greek islands on several occasions. There they had been living for months “in miserable camps”, which had to be stopped, he declared, for example on World Refugee Day in mid-June.

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