Prime Minister Mitsotakis accused of “lies” defends Greece’s migration policy

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis angrily defended Greece’s controversial migration policy on Tuesday during a heated debate with a journalist who accused him of “narcissistic abuse” during a press conference with his Dutch counterpart in Athens. The journalist echoed the call from many human rights groups and organizations urging Athens to stop lying and admit the systematic policy of “cruel and barbaric pushbacks”.

“Prime Minister Mitsotakis, when will you finally stop lying? Lying about refoulements, lying about what is happening with refugees in Greece? Dutch journalist Ingeborg Beugel asked for follow-up to the joint statements by Mitsotakis and Mark Rutte.

Beugel was referring to allegations by rights groups and organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that Greece is illegally pushing migrants and refugees back to Turkey across its land and sea borders. .

“There has been overwhelming evidence and you keep denying and lying. It’s like narcissistic abuse. Why aren’t you being honest? Why don’t you say ‘Brussels left us alone, we waited six years, no one has done anything … Now I have my say and yes, I do cruel and barbaric repressions. ‘”

Mitsotakis, whose center-right New Democracy party came to power in 2019, continued to defend his government’s controversial migration policy, calling it “tough but fair,” and claimed Greece was rescuing hundreds of people. at sea since 2015, when she was on the front line of the migration crisis in Europe.

“I understand that in the Netherlands you have a culture of asking politicians direct questions, which I respect a lot,” he said. “What I will not accept is that in this office you insult me ​​or insult the Greek people with accusations and expressions that are not supported by material facts,” he added.

Mitsotakis said authorities “intercepted” boats at sea in accordance with European Union regulations and granted asylum to 50,000 people, including “tens of thousands of Afghans.”

Beugel interrupted him to say the conditions were “appalling”.

Visibly angry, Mitsotakis retaliated, “Listen, you won’t go into this building to insult me. Am I very clear on this?

He said a newly built and EU funded camp on the island of Samos was “immaculate… beyond comparison to what we had in the past”.

Mitsotakis added: “It is our policy, we will respect it and I will not accept anyone who points the finger at this government and accuses it of inhuman behavior.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean Sea to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.

Hundreds of people have died at sea as scores of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard command saved thousands more.

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants fleeing war and persecution, seeking to cross Europe to start a new life.

Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale refoulements and summary deportations without migrants having access to asylum procedures, in violation of international law. He also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant violation of human rights.

Refoulements are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements which stipulate that people must not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety could be in danger because of their race, religion, nationality or affiliation. a social or political group.

Various human rights organizations have also documented and criticized Greece’s violent immigration policies.

In a report published in September, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) revealed that the harsh conditions and rights violations in the detention and reception centers for migrants on the EU’s borders are growing. continue. The report also noted that pushing migrants back to Turkey has become Greece’s de facto border policy, and that torture, ill-treatment and push-backs continue.

According to the Vienna-based FRA Fundamental Rights Report, covering June 1-June 30, there have been cases of violent refoulements in Croatia, the Greek Cypriot administration, France, Greece, Hungary, in Malta, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.

In the report, it was stated that asylum-seeking children without an accompanying person or with their families were detained in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Greek Cypriot administration, France, Greece and Poland.

The report details the issues, including migrants subject to the mandatory quarantine period on ships after being rescued rather than taken to Italian ports to disembark, delays in search and rescue operations at sea, allegations of refoulements at sea, the widespread use of migrant detention and reports of violence in pre-deportation detention centers in Malta continue.

Meanwhile, the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a European network of 103 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 39 European countries, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that EU institutions were reluctant to act because the general strategy is based on preventing the arrival of people seeking protection, whatever the costs and consequences.

Some EU countries have been implicated in constant refoulement practices in recent years in the name of combating irregular migration. Many cases of refoulements have been recorded, in particular from Greece, Croatia and recently from Poland and the Baltic countries.

“The latest reports add to the mountain of evidence on violent pushbacks at EU borders. It is clear that states are using all possible means, including extreme violence, to prevent access to EU territory and access to asylum procedures, “Catherine Woollard, director of ECRE, told AA.

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