Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made a wise decision on Thursday morning in asking riot police to leave the islands of Chios and Lesvos. It was a much-needed move to de-escalate tension after two days of clashes between police and islanders that left dozens injured on both sides.
It was a smart decision, made to cover a stupid decision he had made several days earlier when he sent several units of riot police to the Aegean islands.
According to local people on Chios, the riot police disembarked from the ferries with the air of being there to enforce the law by any means necessary — and they actually did use excessive force.
As a result, the violence that erupted quickly spiraled out of control.
Finally, Maximos Mansion realized that building the hated migrant detention camps on these particular islands would not be as easy as pushing a bill through Parliament. It was a blatant act against the people’s will, and Minister for Citizen Protection Michalis Chrisochoidis has a great deal to answer for regarding these instances of police violence.
PM Mitsotakis also has a scheduled meeting on Thursday with the mayors of the Aegean islands which have for so long borne the brunt of the migrant influx.
On the one hand the PM will ask them to contribute to the de-escalation of the tension, and on the other he will again ask for realistic proposals on their part, since they persist in rejecting the government plan. This will serve as his invitation for them to assume their responsibilities towards the state and the citizens they represent.
The determination to build the detention camps for migrants who do not qualify for asylum and are due for deportation back to Turkey indicates that the Greek Prime Minister is following orders from the European Union. The reality is that most of those people will be here for a very long period of time. And some, perhaps, will be here permanently.
It’s time for the Greek government to admit to the people that most of the asylum seekers are here to stay. The Syrian refugees, fleeing war, will certainly stay. Others will have to be sent back to their place of origin, while yet more will be the exceptions and stay in Greece or be transferred to the more affluent Northern Europe, just as they had originally wished.
On Wednesday, there were 148 new arrivals added to the hundreds of thousands who are already in limbo now in Greece. And this is another thing that the Greek government must be truthful about: The number of undocumented migrants on Greek soil is out of control.
After the European Union effectively closed its borders to migrants and refugees in 2016, there was a silent agreement made between Greece and the EU that those who enter Greece would stay.
This is the reason for the unbelievable amount of red tape involved in handling asylum seekers, who have been granted equally unfathomable rights by recent EU legislation on migration.
The Greek PM had pledged in his election campaign that his administration would tackle the migrant problem. However, the task is admittedly gargantuan. Greece lacks the resources to deal with the issue alone. It needs help from its EU partners, who appear to be looking away from this explosive situation in complete indifference.
In fact, it is obvious that the EU actually wants to dump all migrants on Greece, after several of its member states received the number of refugees and migrants they had agreed to accept.
The new arrivals are not welcome in Europe; therefore they can be stored in its backyard, also known lately as the nation of Greece.
No wonder the previous administration received so much praise from Europe for its “humanity” and “hospitality” towards migrants and refugees.
Polls show that about 65 percent of Greeks are worried about the migrant influx. Aegean islanders are right now literally suffering from it. Mainland Greeks are now reacting as well to the numerous migrant hospitality centers that are popping up across the country.
It is time, then, for Mitsotakis to take a harder stance on the issue. To demand — not ask — EU staff to man the asylum services and registration centers, as well as additional Frontex personnel and vessels to guard its waters, which are also the borders of Europe.
It’s time to demand that asylum procedures be made stricter and that the dormant 2016 EU-Turkey agreement for the return of refugees to Turkey is actually put into effect.
Then the Prime Minister should take the issue to the European Parliament and, for once, act as if Greece is an equal to all the other states, not the poor relative who is forever in debt, begging for help from the more affluent ones.
And not back down until the problem is resolved.
Finally, on the home front, Mitsotakis must draft a new, stricter migration bill that would make Greece a less favorable destination. At the same time, deportation procedures should be expedited, especially for those who have broken the law in any way.