Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a fiery exchange with a dutch journalist who questioned the country’s treatment of refugees and accused Greece of illegal pushbacks.
The exchange took place during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, following their meeting in Athens on Tuesday.
The Greek Prime Minister reminded the media pack of Greece’s contribution to the refugee crisis. Greece had done more than any country in the region to help refugees, hosting and feeding hundreds of thousands of desperate people fleeing warzones and poverty, even during a time when the Greek people themselves were experiencing poverty and heavy burdens during the financial crisis courtesy of the severe austerity imposed on them.
“We have a very tough but very fair immigration policy. An estimated 50,000 people had come to Greece by end of last year, of which 10,000 were Afghans who were granted asylum. Have you ever been to Samos? You have not gone. You will not come to this building to insult me. If you go to Samos you will find a very good structure with hygiene conditions, playgrounds and it has nothing to do with what we had in the past.
“I do not allow anyone to point the finger at this government and accuse me,” said the prime minister.
“I do not allow you to insult me in this building,” responded the Greek Prime Minister to the Dutch journalist.
“I do not want you to accuse me of things that are not supported by evidence regarding the refugee crisis. We have saved thousands, 200 people were in danger of drowning in the south of Crete and we save lives every day. At the same time, we are blocking the flows from Turkey and we are calling on their Coast Guard to return them.
“Therefore, instead of blaming Greece, you should blame those who exploit people,” continued the Prime Minister.
During the joint press conference, Mitsotakis also said he and his Dutch counterpart spoke extensively about the coronavirus pandemic and the measures to curtail the infections, particularly to avoid shutting down the economy again.
On his part, the Dutch Prime Minister said the two discussed economic collaboration, investments and tourism, as well as the issue of Libya. He said they would discuss this further during a dinner to follow.
Greece’s borders are the borders of the European Union and they must be protected, he underlined, while adding that Europe must welcome a number of refugees, but those who cannot remain must return.
The Dutch PM also said that the royal family of the Netherlands will visit Greece in December.