Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on the European Union to provide nation-states with the necessary funding to build fortified walls along its external border, insisting EU free movement can only work with a tough external migration policy.
In an interview with German newspaper Bild, the Greek premier said fortified border structures are a “necessary instrument for a national border,” and claimed it was “unfair” that European nation-states along the bloc’s external border had often been ignored in their calls for central assistance.
“I will do my best to get maximum support. If that is not possible, we will build the fence with national funds,” Mitsotakis told the newspaper, insisting it was his civic duty to “protect the territory of Greece and to ensure that we never again find ourselves in a situation where anyone can enter without a trace of respect for the rules of my country.”
The Greek prime minister attributed his country’s 37.5 kilometer-long border fence with Turkey as a primary reason for the significant drop in the percentage of Europe’s illegal entries into the bloc arriving via Greece — he reports that 75 percent of illegal entries into Europe came through Greece in 2015 and now represents less than 10 percent of total new arrivals. Greece announced in January it is expanding the length of the border fence by 35 kilometers.
“What we did from the start, when I took over the government, was to impose a tough but – I think – fair migration policy,” Mitsotakis said.
He also argued that the discrepancy in social welfare available to new arrivals across Europe was leading to an unsustainable migration toward more prosperous nations, an issue the European Commission has ignored and must address.
“If someone is granted asylum in Greece, I would like these people to actually stay in Greece,” Mitsotakis explained, adding that “potential refugees run after the more generous benefits” available in nations such as Germany. He described the phenomenon as “asylum shopping” and called on the European Union to legislate to make this a “less popular policy.”
The Greek premier also used the opportunity to defend his border police over claims Greece has conducted in pushbacks against migrants who have illegally slipped through the border with Turkey.
“Six months after I took office, we were confronted with an organized invasion of illegal immigrants in Greece, that is, on European territory. Turkey was the first country to use migration as a weapon for geopolitical purposes. At that time, the entire leadership of the European Union came to the Greek-Turkish border and applauded us as we defended the border,” Mitsotakis stated.
He made no apology for taking preventative measures to stop illegal entries by sea, explaining his border police had saved thousands of people from drowning over recent years. He vowed to continue to make the sea route to Greece less appealing, highlighting that fewer people taking the perilous sea route means fewer people drowning in their attempt to reach Europe.