Following today's visit in Lesvos, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, took part in a Joint Press Conference together with the Presidency of the Council, and also Minister of Luxembourg for Foreign and EU Affairs , Mr Jean Asselboern as well as the Greek Deputy Minister for Interior, responsible for Migration Affairs, Mr Giannis Mouzalas. During the Press Conference the Commissioner stated the following:
''The presence of the Commission and the Council in Greece aims at helping Greece. Since a long time Greece has undertaken a number of responsibilities on which it now delivers. At this point, I would like to commend the excellent work of the Minister (Mr. Mouzalas), who monitors and controls himself the whole programme. There are still things which have to be done, but we are on the right track.
Today in Lesvos, we have witnessed that the mechanism established begins gradually to deliver results. This mechanism was set up, after a period of time during which tens of thousands of refugees and irrregular migrants have crossed the European and Greek borders. We have witnessed the first hotspot starting being operational in Greece. We witnessed the work of EASO, Frontex, UNHCR, IOM and of course the work of the Greek authorities.
At this point, I would like to commend the work of the Greek Police, that has undertaken a great responsibility by implementing actions on the spot, the coastguard, the civil servants and the Ministry that do the best they can. But we all need to speed up, to make available means, capacities and personnel.
Some days ago, together with the Minister, Mr Asselborn, we urged the Member Stares to support the great work of Frontex. We are expecting an important number of 700 experts to provide their assistance so that Frontex can continue offering its services in order to speed up the procedures for fingerprinting, registration and identification.
Nevertheless, we are confronted with a problem. It is clear that the criminal networks that hide behind these desperate people, they instruct them not to accept being identified and fingerprinted claiming that by doing so they are at risk to be sent back. Together with Mr. Asselborn, we both spoke, here and in Lampedusa, with the migrants themselves. They have to realise that they are in a safe environment. In order for them not to remain irregularly in Europe and make full use of their rights, they should respect the rules and procedures. We mention this, because this could be probably another information service that should be added within the team of reception experts. Most probably by UNHCR, with whom we are working.
At this vey moment, we have in Lesvos the first organised hotspot in Greece. More are about to follow, namely in Leros, Samos, Kos and Chios. We should make clear that when we mention hotspot, we don’t mean reception centres. The hotspots consist of experts teams deployed by European agencies namely Frontex, Europol, Eurojust and EASO as well as by Member States and of course by the Greek authorities . These teams ensure that the procedure is finalised quickly and that in a legal manner, the asylum applicants are included in the relocation scheme. These people should not be afraid of this procedure.
But, both we and the national services should work faster. Greece has already made steps and it made these steps within the agreed time schedules, even if some delays occurred initially. Today, I am convinced that we, Greece together with Europe, together with the Commission and the Council are going to move this situation forward in a satisfactory pace.
As we speak, the pressure is increasing in countries such as Germany and Austria. You can observe what is happening now in neighbouring countries, such as Hungary and Croatia: some of them are starting to take decisions in a unilateral way. This puts the Schengen zone, one of the greatest European achievements in question. I must tell you that we will never question it, since the Schengen zone represents the sole example of free movement of persons, ideas and goods.
I repeat that we are in the right direction. But, still, there are things that have to be done. Greece doesn’t feel and shouldn’t feel alone. The funding continues, the services operate, and from the moment that the performance rates of these services increase, we will have made significant steps forward, since the progress numbers are, on the one hand important, but, unfortunately, they still remain low. For that exact reason we are here.''