ATHENS [GREECE]: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for a mechanism for the relocation of asylum seekers and urged better cooperation between the European Union (EU), Turkey and his country in combating human trafficking.
The handling of migration is an "ongoing wager" that demands European solidarity and preparedness, Mitsotakis said at an event organised by the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry, Xinhua news agency reported.
"The handling of this problem can and must only be European," he said. "Steps have been taken, but much more needs to be done. ... In a period of international instability, immigration turns into an ongoing wager."
Mitsotakis reviewed the progress achieved in recent years and called for more effective cooperation to tackle the remaining challenges.
"Strict but fair border protection is ultimately a policy that protects human lives. The more these flows are prevented, the fewer people will be at sea statistically."
In recent years, Greece's Coast Guard has rescued tens of thousands of people in the Aegean Sea, he recalled.
In 2015, 75 per cent of the illegal migrants headed for Europe arrived in Greece.
By 2022, this figure had dropped to 5 per cent, he said.
Last year, 250,000 illegal migrants were prevented from entering Greece via its land borders and 45,000 via its sea borders, he noted.
According to Mitsotakis, in 2015, 900,000 people entered Greece fleeing war zones and extreme poverty.
In 2022, only 17,000 arrivals were recorded.
Following the implementation of voluntary repatriation and relocation programs, the number of migrants hosted in state-run facilities across Greece declined from 92,000 in 2019 to fewer than 15,000 today, and their living conditions have dramatically improved, he said.