News ID: 260332
Published: 0304 GMT October 16, 2019

Europe must brace for new refugee wave: Greek PM

Europe must brace for new refugee wave: Greek PM

Europe must be ready for the possibility of a new refugee influx, Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned Wednesday, as an unfolding Turkish invasion in Syria could see more people flee the already war-ravaged region.

"Europe must be prepared for the eventuality of a new migratory and refugee wave coming through Greece," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told AFP in an exclusive interview 100 days after taking office.

With some 70,000 asylum-seekers on its soil - including nearly 33,000 on islands near Turkey - Greece is concerned that the Turkish offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas will overwhelm already overcrowded camps.

Turkey houses some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already threatened to "open the gates" to allow more to leave for Western countries if his plans to resettle them in northern Syria fail.

Mitsotakis, who has already met with Erdogan in New York, rejects this as blackmail.

"The idea that Europe can be blackmailed by a threat of unleashing waves of refugees and migrants within Europe is not acceptable as a proposition," he said.

He added the EU had been "generous" with Ankara, a fact he said was not fully acknowledged by the Turks.

The UN refugee agency this week said Greece in 2019 had received over 46,000 people - more than Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus combined.

Though these numbers are a far cry from the near-million that arrived in 2015, Greece is struggling to accommodate the asylum-seekers already on its soil.

"It's clear if you just look at the number that cross the Aegean sea this summer in comparison to last summer, we are facing a problem (of) acute proportion," Mitsotakis said.

On the islands, many asylum-seekers sleep in tents or makeshifts shacks as the camps have exceeded their capacity many times over.

Aside from hygiene concerns, the migrants and refugees face hours-long queues for food and an even longer wait for their asylum applications to be processed, leading to additional mental strain.


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