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Mitsotakis to Handelsblatt on resurgent migrant crisis: ‘it’s unacceptable; we cannot continue like this’

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday reiterated that continuing migrant flows arriving from neighboring Turkey are an unacceptable development, stressing that “we cannot continue like this”, in reply to a press question during an interview for the German daily Handelsblatt.

While appearing extremely upbeat over his center-right government’s four months in power and what he called a revived positive mood in the country – something also exemplified by shrinking yields on Greek bonds – failure to stem the flow of irregular migrants and asylum seekers landing onto a handful of eastern Aegean islands or clandestinely slipping into the country via the land border with Turkey have proven to be definite “sore point” with public opinion – and something directly queried by Handelsblatt’s reporters.

In reply, Mitsotakis repeated that official Turkey is trying to use migration as a lever to pressure Europe into making concessions.

“I very openly told (Turkish) President Erdogan that he cannot exploit migrants and refugees if he wants good-neighborly relations with Greece… over the recent period when we’ve tried to communicate with the Turkish coast guard, to tell them when a boat filled with migrants is leaving the Turkish coast, there’s been no response. This is unacceptable and violates the EU-Turkey agreement on migration,” he said, speaking after a weekend when roughly 700 new arrivals were recorded, either rescues by the Greek coast guard or landings of would-be migrants on the islands.

Turning towards the rest of the EU, he stressed that a EU member-state cannot enjoy the benefits of the Schengen zone but at the same time refuse to share in its burdens, as some eastern European countries are doing, as he charged.

“Europe is treating first arrival countries like Greece as convenient ‘storage’ for refugees and migrants. Is this European solidarity? No. I will not accept this any longer,” he said, underlining that this is not a Greece-only problem.