TM: Mr. Avramopoulos what went through your mind when you got the news that Moria refugee camp in Lesvos was burning.
DA: As it is obvious, I am following the situation not only in Lesvos but across Europe given my previous job as European Commissioner for Migration and Security. It is true to say that the situation in Moria is dire, there is no doubt about it. During the last year, I have to say great efforts have been made by the Greek authorities to settle the situation and it is good to say the number of migrants on the island before it was approximately 30.000 and now is 15.000 and this is the explanation why all these things are happening now.
Due to the number of covid cases, among the community of migrants, measures of confinement had to be imposed and implemented. They had to understand all of them that they have to comply with the instructions of the authorities. The Greek authorities have taken care of the situation and the PM has taken over himself along with competent ministers and right now there is a ministerial meeting held by the PM in order to give an end to this situation.
Let’s go beyond this picture, why all these things are happening? Because in this part of Europe there is still a migration crisis. Besides what has happened in the past there are still flows and the cooperation between the Greek and Turkish authorities got weakened because of the political crisis that it is ongoing right now. The European Union is standing by and today assurances were given by competent Commissioners that they will support Greece, but the EU- Turkish statement should be updated and keep working as it was happening till ast august.
TM: About Moria camp there you said the numbers (of asylum seekers) have been reduced on the island of Lesvos, but more than 12.000 people were housed at that Moria camp which has a capacity of less than 280, conditions were dire as you said, why was that situation tolerated for so long?
DA: I am not authorised to speak on behalf of the Greek government ,because I don’t have an instututional role, but I know the situation given my previous job. Progress has been made, but in the meantime we have to say that there were some reactions on the island. It is not easy to handle this very delicate situation. The Greek authorities have provided with whatever they could these desparate people, humanitarian aid, medical services, everything they wanted to have, but it is true also to say that a number of migrants were stuck there and the hotspots were overwhelmed by a big number of new arrivals. It is not a Greek issue, it is a European issue and the European Union has to stand by Greece and this was the assurance given today by the competent European Commissioners.
TM: You were migration Commissioner during the worst days of the humanitarian crisis involving migrants in 2015, the EU failed to agree on a common approach then, do you see any more solidarity among EU member states and dealing with the situation now than it was then?
DA: Solidarity as a basic principle upon which Europe is built is at stake. In the beginning it was the economic crisis, then the refugee crisis, I have to admit that in the beginning of 2015 the arrival of first migrant on the shores of Greece and Italy almost coincided with the first Jihadi terrorist attacks on European soil. A perfect storm .At the time I was the lucky one ,,because before there was no migration policy ,and we started building everything from scratch .At that moment Europe proved that as a Union, in a spirit of solidarity, could have done more and the very first two years the situation was handled isuccessfully. I would also like to mention that Germany’s role was also important at that time, Chancellor Merkel and the competent ministers of the German goverment have supported European holistic approach.
TM: We have to leave it there, Commissioner thank you very much for taking time to talk to us.