European lawmakers urged member states to stay united and offer Greece more support in its efforts to deal with the ongoing refugee crisis, after a Civil Liberties Committee assessed the situation at the country’s external borders this week.
MEPs underlined that solidarity with frontline countries was key and that migration should not be used for political purposes.
EU legislators said it was vital to manage incoming migrant flows at Greece’s borders, particularly now in view of the Covid-19 outbreak, noting that the coronavirus health crisis demonstrates more than ever that no country can deal with certain challenges alone.
The committee praised the commitment of seven EU states – Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal – to take in 1,600 unaccompanied minors or vulnerable individuals from the Greek islands, but requested further clarifications and timeframe.
Meanwhile, concern focused on the possibility of the deadly virus spreading to the overcrowded camps on the Greek islands. Suggestions included transferring people to the mainland or using empty hotel rooms to ensure social distancing. Objections concentrated on the disruption of public order.
According to data released on Friday, the number of migrants living at Greek island hotspots decreased by 5.3 percent to 36,387 from 38,423 in the first quarter of 2020 despite an increase in the number of arrivals after Turkey violated its 2016 EU agreement and opened its borders to the European Union.
In response, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would invoke EU law, as part of coronavirus emergency measures which included restricting the country’s border with Turkey in efforts to stop the inflow of illegal migrants and refugees.
In efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 to the hotspots hosting the refugees, Greece said this week that it had applied for 190 million euros in aid from the Commission’s announced 3-billion-euro emergency coronavirus response mechanism.