Yesterday (04.11) Greece carried out the first relocation of asylum seekers from its territory to Luxembourg, part of an EU-approved plan to ease the burden on border nations inundated by this year's influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Six families from Syria and Iraq were being relocated from Athens, among the first under a 780-million-euro, two-year scheme funded by the European Union. Smiling parents holding young children posed for "selfies" with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other EU officials.
"We are fully aware that this is a beginning, that 30 refugees in the thousands that are leaving their country to get away from the war is only a drop in the ocean" noted Tsipras, underlining that "we want this drop in the ocean to become a rivulet and to finally become a river of humanism, co-responsibility and shared responsibility because these are the principles on which EU has been based".
Moreover, the Greek prime minister stressed that “Greece is not the entrance gate of the refugees’ route, but part of the route”. The entrance gate is Turkey; for this reason the most effective and less dangerous solution is for the identification and relocation process start at the Turkish coasts and not on the Greek islands, he concluded.
Present at the airport to say farewell to the refugees were Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras; European Parliament President Martin Schulz; Luxembourg Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Asselborn; Commissioner Dimitrios Avramopoulos; and the Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas.
The President of the European Parliament said that the smiles of the refugees departing for Europe is the most important image that he has seen recently. Schulz stressed that the refugee problem is a European problem and called for cooperation between states in order to jointly address it.
“What you saw today, should be made a routine,” Mouzalas said, stressing that it shouldn’t be a routine to see pictures of people who have drowned.
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister said that the “we need to move fast… I am here to ensure that we are not erecting fences and barbed wire, because we need solidarity.” Asselborn concluded by saying, “If we fail, we will destroy the basic principles and values of the European Union.”
Almost 600,000 refugees have entered crisis-hit Greece via its long Mediterranean sea boundary with Turkey this year, putting even more pressure on a country struggling to lift itself out of the debt crisis.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Parliament President Martin Schulzare due to visit today the island of Lesvos, to inspect in situ the pilot “hotspot”, a fast-track registration centre for migrants. The island has received more than half of some 600,000 refugees and migrants who have arrived in Greece this year.