“What we did from the start, when I took over the government, was to impose a tough but – I think – fair migration policy,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview with journalists of the German newspaper “Bild”.
He also recalled that six months after taking over, his government had to fend off an “organized invasion of illegal migrants into Greece, in other words into European territory.”
Among others, the Greek PM emphasized “the need for Europe to have a comprehensive migration policy and protect its interior in order to preserve the Schengen Zone with the free movement of people.”
Thanks to the border wall and the government’s migration policy, he noted, fewer irregular migrants were now entering Europe via Greece, with the numbers into Greece dropping so that they now accounted for less than 10% of all illegal entries into Europe, down from 75 pct in 2015.
He added that “a wall could not solve the problem on its own and an overall migration policy was needed. This must include the handling of secondary flows and also a fair distribution of the burden imposed by those allowed entry as refugees, as well as the handling of returns.”
Mitsotakis stressed that it was crucial that those not eligible for refugee status be returned to their countries of origin.
Asked how he hoped to persuade the leaders of France and Germany on this point, Mitsotakis stressed that he had an obligation “to defend our territory and ensure that there will never be a return to a situation where anyone could enter without a trace of respect for the rules of my country.”
The Greek premier said that he intended to push the EU for the maximum possible support and, if that proved impossible, that Greece will build a border fence using its own national funds, which would be expensive but “absolutely feasible for a country such as Greece.”
Mitsotakis denied that Greece engaged in pushbacks but said that it did prevent illegal entry by sea, while saving thousands of people at risk of drowning.
He also pointed out that the fewer people there were at sea, the smaller the chances of people being drowned.