Athens setting up closed-off refugee camps

The conservative government in Athens is adopting a harsher stance on refugee policy: it wants to close the three largest reception camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos and replace them with restrictive holding facilities in the future - so-called "identification and departure centres". Commentators urge the EU to take action.

Open/close all quotes
Handelsblatt (DE) /

Take some of the burden from Greece

The EU must not leave Greece to its own resources on immigration policy, the Athens correspondent for Handelsblatt, Gerd Höhler, explains:

“It can't keep pretending this is none of its business. The EU must finally distribute the burden more equitably and relieve the countries of arrival, such as Greece, of some of the asylum procedure tasks. The migratory pressure on Europe is growing regardless. Sooner or later the migrants stranded in Greece will try to get to other EU states - despite closed borders. It would be better to manage the flows now - before control is lost, as in the crisis summer of 2015.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

They will continue to come

Deterrence is no solution, Daily Sabah points out:

“Greece is turning the Aegean islands into a concentration camp for refugees. ... When it comes to implementing severe measures to discourage irregular migration, Greece is not alone. Other European governments have followed suit, conceding that they cannot deal with the question of refugees. The answer, they say, is a combination of harsh measures and deportation. Those steps, however, fall short of solving the problem itself. No matter what Europeans do to strike fear into the hearts of refugees, migrants do not budge. There is a very simple reason for their commitment: those people flee violence, death and chaos in their native countries. They reason that the Europeans could not treat them as poorly as their own governments. And this is a valid point.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

The islands shouldn't allow this

The government in Athens must be ready for protests from those living on the islands, Efimerida ton Syntakton warns:

“The residents know that it's not to their advantage to transform large parts of the islands into exceptions to the rule of law, no matter how much the government tries to persuade them with economic advantages. ... At the same time the real and immediate danger is that our country will be transformed from the cradle of democracy and model of solidarity that it has been in recent years into a negative example for the international community, on a par with the Visegrád states, the Italy of the right-wing extremist Salvini, or Australia.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Erdoğan piling on the pressure again

Turkish President Erdoğan is responsible for the growing number of refugees in the Aegean, Die Presse believes:

“Since the end of the summer anyone who is not registered must leave Istanbul. That has been driving a significant number of refugees toward Europe - as has the prospect of being deported to the protection zone that Erdoğan wants to set up in northern Syria. In addition, the six-billion euro refugee deal that Erdoğan cut with the EU in March 2016 will soon expire. It's no accident that he recently reopened the migration floodgates to Europe more than just rhetorically. He wants to negotiate the next tranche. ... Without cooperation with Ankara it will be difficult to find any solution at all. However, Europe should stop letting itself be blackmailed by the Turkish autocrat. It will only be able to free itself of its dependence if it can protect its external border on its own.”