German Foreign Minister: Greece ‘deserves our full solidarity’ with border control

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Germany’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, visited refugees at a camp in Greece on Thursday after stressing the EU has to do more to support Greece as they deal with illegal border crossings.

The Foreign Minister who is on a two-day visit to Greece visited a Holocaust memorial in Athens before sitting down with refugees at a camp west of the city.

In an interview with Ta Nea, Baerbock described Greece as one of Germany’s closest partners in Europe, saying Athens “deserves our full solidarity” when referring to the nation’s major work in protecting the EU’s external borders and its reception of refugees.

“The security of the EU ‘s external border is a joint task,” the Foreign Minister said.

“At the same time, it is not an abstract question that we must protect human rights without ifs and buts. It is about human lives, about the fates of men, women and children.

“If we don’t defend them here, they will perish. That’s why I’m promoting a common European sea rescue and rejecting pushbacks.”

German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, in conversation with refugees at the Schisto refugee camp. Photo: Leon Kuegeler

According to AP News, Greece intercepts boats transporting migrants and asylum-seekers heading to its eastern islands from the nearby coast of Turkey. Human rights organisations allege the country carries out summary deportations, known as ‘pushbacks’, which the Greek government denies.

Since the relaxing of travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, illegal border crossings have risen, with record increases in the eastern Mediterranean by 125% and the Western Balkans by 191%, says EU border protection agency Frontex.

Prior to her arrival in Greece, Baerbock emphasised in a statement: “Many Germans are very familiar with Greece as a holiday destination, but too few know the extent of the guilt that Germany shouldered there during the Second World War for the atrocities committed by the Nazi occupation.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visiting the “Korai 4” memorial – a former torture prison of the Nazi occupation in Athens. Photo: Leon Kuegeler

“It is important to me to keep the memory alive – because it is the prerequisite for a good future together,” she added.

Pointing to rising tensions between NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, she said “problems must be resolved through talks, not through the escalation of tensions,” a message she says will be relayed to Ankara.

Baerbock is scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias today.

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