World famous singer Sting has accused world leaders of cowardice on the issue of refugees calling them “half men and cowards” on Saturday at an Amnesty International event in Athens.
“Thank God for Greece because you have shown the way,” said Sting.
“You have shown how to treat refugees when other people are building walls. When children are being taken from their mothers and put in cages, you are acting with compassion and generosity and commonsense,” he said.
“Because our so-called leaders, a sad parade of half-men, cowards, have not got the solutions…Once again Greece has shown us how to be civilized.”
Close to a million refugees passed through Greece in 2015 as the country is struggling through austerity and its own financial crisis.
Meanwhile Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on Europe to show solidarity on the refugee and migration issue during an informal EU leaders’ mini-summit on asylum and migration held in Brussels on Sunday.
“The big dilemma is whether we will face this challenge in isolation or whether we will face it as a collective European challenge,” Tsipras said, while noting that the crisis was not likely to be passing or an incidental problem.
“The refugee crisis was a European crisis and its solution must also be European”, Tsipras added, while voicing his opposition to a fragmentary or unilateral approach that was unlikely to provide solutions. The Greek Prime Minister called for solidarity and mutual support, as well as a sharing of the burdens within the EU.
“ I expressed the view that we must look equally seriously at the protection of EU borders and the external aspects of the migration crisis. The EU must orient itself toward a sharing of responsibility, not allowing the burden to fall on the reception countries,” he added.
“ The issue is whether this crisis will be treated as a European collective challenge or a crisis that concerns only those who have to deal with the symptoms, with each country seeking separate national solutions,” the Greek PM said.
“ We, on our part, stressed the need to not proceed in a fragmentary way to tackle this problem. Unilateral actions can in no way provide solutions but will create even bigger problems,” Tsipras said.
The Greek PM called for a revision of the European asylum system so that the burden of caring for refugees might be shared out more fairly.
His proposals also included greater support for first-reception countries in Europe, support for transit and origin countries, a stronger European mechanism for refugee returns and the replacement of the EU border agency Frontex with a powerful European border and coast guard.
The Greek PM expressed grave reservations, meanwhile, about the proposed “closed-type” detention centres for refugees located outside the EU.
Tsipras said that Greece wanted a coordinated reduction of secondary flows though these were not occurring from Greece because its northern borders had been closed for some time due to unilateral actions. If there were any, he added, these would be extremely small-scale and use illegal routes.
“ For Greece, the top priority is to eliminate primary flows, if this is at all possible, with respect to the EU-Turkey Statement. As you can understand, a reduction of such illegal primary flows can allow the EU-Turkey agreement to act constructively,” he said.
He clarified that this did not mean “ shutting the doors and windows” to legal migration but only to the illegal activity of traffickers, while allowing legal flows through the asylum process, which respected international treaties and international law.
“ Europe must not present a repellent face, which is in total opposition to its principles and values; a face that, unfortunately, is shown by many countries at this time,” he said. “In Greece we have a large number of families that need to be reunited and we must immediately carry out the procedures necessary for this to happen,” Tsipras added.