‘You attract these people’ – Greek migration minister blames Western Europe benefit system for mass migration

Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi says that Germany and other Western EU countries incentivize mass migration. (John Thys, Pool via AP)
By Lucie Ctverakova
4 Min Read

The Greek Minister for Migration, Notis Mitarachi, criticized the German and Western European refugee policy, saying it will inevitably attract migrants. In the wake of increasing migratory pressure from Afghanistan via Greece and the smuggling of migrants into the European Union controlled by Belarus, Mitarachi told Bild am Sonntag that the “refugee flows from my country” were “driven by Western European social benefit systems.”

Migrants in Greece received the same benefits as Greek citizens earning less than €400 per month. Just like Greek citizens, they are not entitled to free accommodations or have their rent paid by the state.

“If they make it to Germany, Austria, or Sweden, they are entitled to benefits that even exceed Greek salaries,” said Mitarachi about migrants that continue their travel to westward.

Recently, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer threatened Athens to send all those already registered in Greece back there because of the increasing number of asylum seekers traveling to Germany via Greece.

Mitarachi countered, saying that if you offer people who come to Germany huge benefits, that will attract people.

“The problem is that you are attracting these people through Greece, and I don’t want to be the gateway to Europe,” said Mitarachi.

Mitarachi warned that there are still many migrants who want to come. “In theory, 38 million people from Afghanistan would like to come to Europe. The big challenge for the EU now is: How can we, as part of a discussion community, offer solutions there? Because if 38 million people try to get to Europe, then that is something that Europe cannot cope with. So yes, the pressure in Europe could increase. “

On Sunday, Athens allowed a cargo ship sailing under the Turkish flag with around 400 mostly Afghan migrants on board to anchor in international waters at the Greek island of Kos after giving an emergency signal. The migrants were allowed to leave the ship and were reportedly placed in coronavirus quarantine.

The incident led to new tensions between the two neighboring countries and NATO partners. Athens accused Ankara of violating the 2016 refugee agreement with the EU. Greece had asked Turkey in vain to take back the ship since Friday. Because of Ankara’s refusal, the Greek authorities finally permitted the ship to dock on Kos.

Meanwhile, the council chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, demanded that migrants picked up in the Mediterranean should be redistributed to European countries. Many cities have agreed to accept.

“Every time we have to negotiate and haggle: Where can rescued people who have experienced bad things go ashore in the first place? That has to change,” he Bild.

According to him, individual states should also lead the way, noting that there is still no unity in Europe on this topic. He accused the European Union of providing financial support to the Libyan coast guard to hold migrants back.

“I think that’s irresponsible. The Libyan Coast Guard consists of former militiamen, therefore, cannot be a partner for a civil, human rights-oriented organization,” said Bedford-Strohm.

In the Libyan camps for migrants, human rights are under grave threat. Since 2016, the EU has been training the coast guard of the main transit country for migrants from Africa and providing support funds to secure the sea border.

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