Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias sent a strong message to the European Union partners: “Greece will not take back refugees from northern Europe,” he said adding that “a new wave this summer would overwhelm us.”
In an interview to German daily Die Welt, Kotzias said Greece does not have the capacity nor the financial means to take back refugees from Germany and other northern European countries.
“Some EU countries think that they can use Italy and Greece as closed boxes, where refugees can be stored,” Kotzias said.
The comments follow German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière’s announcement he would return rejected asylum seekers to Greece after the country’s asylum system had improved. Germany had stopped deportations to Greece in 2011 following deficiencies in the system.
The European Commission had also proposed reintroducing the so-called Dublin rules on March 15, forcing refugees to claim asylum in the country where they first entered Europe.
“This is not European thinking,” Kotzias said, ahead of a meeting with his German colleague Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday in Athens.
“Greece has shown great humanity in the reception of refugees. But a new wave of refugees this summer would overwhelm us. Greece is at the limit of its potential,” he said, and called for more support from EU member countries in dealing with the refugee crisis.
Over the past year, tens of thousands of refugees have arrived in Greece, making their way from the Middle East to Europe. In the first months of 2017, 3,000 refugees arrived in the country.
More than 60,000 people are stuck in Greece since the closure of the Balkan Route in February 2016 and the EU Turkey Deal a month later.
According to latest report of Greek Migration Ministry a total of 62,166 people are currently in Greece.
The flows started to increase again in recent days. It is not clear whether the new arrivals increase has to do with the improvement of weather conditions or with the Turkish threats that Ankara will cancel the EU deal.
118 people arrived in the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea in the last 24 hours.