Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum: "Our country is not an open vineyard"

Notis Mitarachi Malta

Notis Mitarachi

"In order to deal with the immigration crisis, we are moving in three stages," said Greece's Migration and Asylum Minister, Notis Mitarachi during an interview with CNN Greece.

"The first step for us was to better guard the borders and already in the last quarter the flows have been reduced by more than 90% thanks to the great effort of the Armed Forces, the Police and the Coast Guard."

The second big effort is to "separate real refugees from economic migrants, and this quarter we have tripled the issuance of asylum decisions," Mitarachi added.

The third major stage is "to have less and safer structures with security measures and with access control measures."

According to Mitarachi, arrivals reduced by more than 90%. "A total of about 250 people entered our country in May compared to more than 3,000 who entered in May 2019. The reduction is very significant. To some extent, of course, it was influenced by the pandemic in the neighbouring country, but above all it is the determination of our country. Our country is not an open vineyard... We are protecting our land and sea borders and we will continue to do so even now that the borders are slowly reopening."

The Minister stressed that he has absolute respect for the local communities, which have long felt that they are lifting a very heavy burden on immigration. "Especially our islands but also some areas of mainland Greece. Our goal is to make the structures smaller, secondly to keep them less in the structures and thirdly to make the structures safer. And we will start with Malakasa."

Malakasa will become the first controlled-access refugee and migrant facility in mainland Greece.

Mitarakis said that a system controlling who comes in an out the camp will be installed within the coming weeks, while individuals who are not entitled to stay at the overcrowded facility will be deported.

His comments come a day after residents in Malakasa blocked the Athens-Lamia national highway, to protest the plans for the camp, which will be the second one in the area, supplementing an open facility that is currently in operation.

Six officers were injured in the clashes and five people were remanded in custody.

The locals described the migrant camp in Malakasa as a “health bomb” due to the coronavirus. They also claim that the refugees and migrants disturb the area with their presence, as they do not stay inside the camps but gather at the squares and have barbecues near the forested area.