′Proud of the solidarity shown by the Greek people′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.04.2016
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'Proud of the solidarity shown by the Greek people'

Giorgos Kyritsis, the spokesman for Greece's governmental committee on refugees, says the country's EU partners must help deport rejected asylum applicants to Turkey. Hardly any applications are being made in Greece.

DW: Has Greece taken all the necessary steps to ensure that Greece prepares to send back migrantsdeportations can begin?

Giorgos Kyritsis: Everything Greece was required to implement at a legislative and administrative level has been done. This is also true, with some limitations, of the necessary infrastructure for processing asylum applications and for asylum procedures. But the more foreign experts from EU countries come to do this work in Greece, the more smoothly the whole process will run. The Greek side has done its part so that the repatriations can begin on Monday. If the other partners, the EU and Turkey, are also prepared, the first migrants will be brought from the Greek islands to the Turkish coast then.

Giorgos Kyritsis

Giorgos Kyritsis is spokesman of the Greek government's refugee committee, which coordinates the work of ministries and authorities

It sounds as if you have doubts about the preparedness of your partners?

In the agreement with Turkey, it was decided that about 2,400 experts would come to Greece from other EU countries to support the repatriation process. So far it's been a few hundred police who've been deployed on behalf of the European border organization Frontex. In terms of asylum judges and asylum workers, there's hardly anyone here.

On April 7, a pilot project is supposed to take place over several days, intended to practice cooperation between the foreign experts and the Greek authorities in asylum procedures. We'll see what comes of it. Notwithstanding, it is the case that the asylum process is a matter that falls within a state's national sovereignty. That is why the decisions on the asylum applications will carry a Greek signature. This means that the foreign experts will have a supporting role.

Who actually decides who has to go back to Turkey?

The Greek authorities record all those who haven't made an asylum application and Frontex carries out the repatriation.

How do you explain the fact that refugees are still coming to Greece even after the gateway to the rest of Europe has been closed?

For one thing, it has to do with these people's desperation and their attempt to cling to something. They don't want to believe that, after traveling thousands of kilometers, they will suddenly find themselves stuck at a closed border. The other factor is the human traffickers who want to earn money from the refugees and so give them false information.

How are refugees in Greece informed about the real state of affairs?

That is done on the islands and in the refugee camps, through interpreters and with brochures. In addition we also have radio and television programs on the public broadcasters in Arabic.

There has been a lot of criticism in the EU of the decision to send refugees back to Turkey. Amnesty International does not consider it to be a safe third country. Does the Greek government consider Turkey a safe country for refugees?

The Greek government doesn't consider any country to be safe a priori. That is why neither Turkey not any other country is mentioned in the new refugee law. Every asylum application is assessed individually. A country may be safe in one instance for one person, but not for another.

The refugees have not been welcomed kindly everywhere in Europe. What is the mood like in Greece?

We are proud - or rather: relieved - that despite the very large number of refugees who have passed through the country there have been no confrontations between Greeks and migrants. There have been no deaths, not a single person has had to go to prison for xenophobic offenses. We are proud of the solidarity shown by the Greek people despite the profound economic crisis of the past six years. With the exception of the German government, the positions of the Greek government on the refugee and migrant issue are the most humane and display the greatest solidarity of any in Europe.