Tsipras says Greece can't stop migrants headed for northern Europe

4th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Friday his country can't stop migrants who want to head to northern Europe, and sharply criticised Balkan countries for shutting their borders.

"How can we stop people if they want to keep going?" Tsipras, whose country has faced a major refugee influx via Turkey, told Germany's top-selling Bild daily.

"We cannot imprison people, that would contravene international agreements. We can only help to rescue these people at sea, to supply and register them. Then they all want to move on. That's why a resettlement process is the only solution."

"They have been bombed in their homes, have risked their lives to escape to come to Greece, the gateway to Europe. But the refugees' 'Mecca' lies to the north."

Tsipras's comments came a day after Austria's foreign minister urged Greece to stop migrants from pursuing their journey to northern Europe, saying Athens should hold new arrivals at registration "hotspots".

Sebastian Kurz told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview that "those who manage to arrive in Greece should not be allowed to continue on their journey".

But Tsipras retorted that while Greece, as Europe's main gateway for refugees, had "met more than 100 percent of our obligations, others haven't even met 10 percent and love to criticise us".

"What some countries have agreed and decided goes against all the rules, against the whole of Europe, and we consider it an unfriendly act."

"These countries are destroying Europe!" he charged, according to the German translation.

Athens has been seething over a series of border restrictions along the migrant trail, from Austria to Macedonia, that has caused a bottleneck in Greece.

"Greece is the only country that is fulfilling its obligations," the leftist leader said, adding that it was now hosting 30,000 refugees.

While Greece can protect its land borders, it can't do the same for some 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) of coastline, he said.

Tsipras said that "in the end those who are now putting up barbed wire, expelling refugees by force and turning their countries into fortresses, will be isolated in Europe.

"We, however, are in an alliance with the countries showing solidarity," he added, in an apparent reference to Germany, Europe's top destination for migrants.

"And these are the countries with which we had very big problems during the financial crisis," he said, hinting at Berlin's tough austerity demands from Greece in return for international bail-out loans.


© 2016 AFP

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