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Alternate FM Xydakis and Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Ioannis Mouzalas visit Lesvos with EU and Schengen Ambassadors (24 November 2015)
Alternate Foreign Minister Nikos Xydakis and Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Ioannis Mouzalas visited Lesvos today, accompanied by Ambassadors to Athens of EU member states and Schengen associated countries.
The delegation, which reached Mytilene in the morning, were accompanied and briefed by Hellenic Police Major General Zacharoula Tsirigoti, Director of the aliens and border protection branch; Syriza’s MP for Lesvos, Giorgos Pallis; Regional Governor Christiana Kalogirou; the Mayor of Mytilene, Spyros Galinos; the Secretary General for the Aegean and Island Policy, Ioannis Giannelis-Theodosiadis; and other officials.
Immediately after their arrival at Mytilene’s airport, the Ambassadors met and talked with dozens of migrants and refugees who had just disembarked from rigged dinghies.
Visits followed to the camp for Syrian refugees, at Kara Tepe, and to the Center for Registration and Certification of Migrants, at Moria. Late in the afternoon, the delegation boarded a Coastguard open-sea vessel and sailed the maritime borderline between Greece and Turkey.
Mr. Mouzalas stated that “we wanted you to see where the boats come from and explain to you, once again, that the work we are doing at sea to defend the borders of Europe is to save people. You can’t repel at sea. On our land borders, we can keep out people who don’t have the right to come in. On the maritime borders we have to save them.”
The visit concluded at the Regional Council Hall in Lesvos, where Mr. Mouzalas briefed the Ambassadors in detail on the procedures for reception, registration and relocation that take place in Greece, within the framework of international and European law. During the briefing, Mr. Mouzalas referred to the routes Syrian refugees are taking to Europe, and he went into detail regarding Greece’s duties.
He also noted the need for officials of foreign states to consult with the Greek authorities during their scheduled visits to the region, so that they can gain a rounded view of the refugee and migration issue. Having thanked the NGOs for their work in the region, Mr. Mouzalas noted that the government’s goal is to bring order to the way in which NGOs operate in order to optimize assistance for the refugees.
Alternate Foreign Minister Xydakis welcomed the international delegation to Lesvos, expressing the hope that “you are eyewitnesses to what is happening on the European borders. We are shouldering the burden of receiving people from the war regions, from regions in civil conflict or regions of poverty and despair. We are acting in accordance with the rules of international law, in accordance with the EU treaties, and in line with the fundamental principles of the democracies and peoples of Europe. In accordance with these principles, we are not repelling people who are at sea; that is, we do not leave them to sink and drown. We are saving human lives.
I ask that you convey to your governments and to your peoples what is really happening and the things you have seen with your own eyes. Just as France invoked article 42 of the Lisbon Treaty to activate the solidarity of the EU member states in the struggle against terrorism – solidarity that we all have a duty to provide – Greece, in accordance with international law and the European treaties, is asking for the solidarity and understanding of the EU member states.”