France will help Greece tackle an ongoing migration challenge that has put overwhelming pressure on its infrastructure by accepting 400 asylum-seekers, the French ambassador to Athens said Thursday.
‘Over the coming months, France will accept 400 persons who have arrived on Greek soil,’ ambassador Patrick Maisonnave told the state Athens News Agency.
‘We cannot leave Greece without assistance in the midst of a humanitarian challenge,’ said Maisonnave, noting that Turkey has ‘repeatedly threatened’ to send more asylum-seekers to Europe.
The offer would mark the first significant relocation of asylum-seekers from Greece since the height of the migration crisis in 2015.
At the time, a European Union scheme had been put in place to share out 160,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece among other EU states over a two-year period.
But in the face of strong opposition from sceptical eastern EU states including Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, the initiative fizzled out after just 29,000 relocations, including around 2,700 accepted by France.
Greece's new conservative government has struggled to manage hundreds of new asylum-seeker arrivals on a daily basis from the coast of neighbouring Turkey.
Greece in 2019 again became the main entry into Europe for migrants and refugees. The UN refugee agency recorded more than 55,000 arrivals by sea, and more than 14,000 via the land border with Turkey.
Greece's migrant camps are mostly full beyond capacity, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last month admitted that he had failed to persuade EU peers to accept even unaccompanied minors.
Maisonnave said France would also step up cooperation with Greece by sending experts to combat migrant smuggling, and is willing to bolster Greek camp resources with French translators, doctors and psychologists.
French secretary of state to the interior minister, Laurent Nunez, will visit Athens in the coming weeks to discuss changes to European asylum policy, he added.
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