'Greece needs our full support'

“The Greek authorities must cope with a disproportionate share of Europe’s responsibility to care for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers,” said Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) today, leading a delegation visiting both Athens and Lesvos on 30-31 May.

He pointed out that Greece was doing its utmost to provide sufficient reception places. “The efforts Greece is making are clear and visible, and this country needs our full support and solidarity,” he said. “This is a European responsibility and a European response is needed. This responsibility must be shared more fairly between European States, which must meet their obligations on relocation”.

Mr Agramunt today held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, Nikolaos Voutsis. Among the main issues discussed was the visit of Prime Minister Tsipras to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 22 June 2016, during its June part-session, when a report currently being prepared by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) on “Refugees at risk in Greece” will also be debated.

The delegation today visited Elliniko and Skaramagas reception centres, and will visit Eleonas and Piraeus tomorrow. On 31 May, a smaller delegation composed of 7 members, chaired by President Agramunt, will also visit the island of Lesvos, including the Moria hotspot, where it will look, in particular, at the implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement and its effects on refugees and migrants.

The purpose of the visit is to raise awareness of the challenges Greece is facing in relation to the inflow of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Parliamentarians are focusing in particular on the living conditions of these people and their access to international protection.

“We will report back to national parliaments on this visit and the outcomes of our discussions. I hope this will help remind governments of their responsibilities and obligations, and allow us to move from a Europe of fences, where a few states are isolated in their efforts and struggling under immense pressure, to a united Europe of bridges and solidarity,” Mr Agramunt concluded.

Meritxell Mateu (Andorra, ALDE) will present a report on this visit during the next June PACE session (20-24 June 2016).

There are currently 55,000 asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, stranded in mainland Greece and on the Aegean islands.