More than 20,000 refugees are stuck in Greece because of the partial closure of borders decided by the authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In the Attica region alone the number of refugees exceeded 7,500. On Friday, 700 people landed on the island of Lesbos, saved by ships of the Greek Coast Guard and Frontex, while in the Dodecanese, other 482 “sea desperate” refugees are being temporarily housed.
These numbers are expected to grow over the next few days amid instability caused by the lack of European solidarity. Greece is hoping for a possible change of course, and the statements of the European Commission’s migration spokeswoman, Natasha Bertaud, had some weight. She pointed out the commission was preparing an emergency aid package to prevent Greece from having its own humanitarian crisis. And, a day after Greece recalled its ambassador from Vienna, the Tsipras government responded negatively to Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner’s request to visit Greece next week.
If she wants to visit, the Syriza government made clear, Austria would have to agree to revoke the multi-national agreements reached at the Vienna summit. That is, refugee families must be allowed to pass through the Balkans, and all E.U. member countries must respect their refugee allocation quota committments. Greece considers it absurd that a regional bloc, along with non-E.U. countries, have devised their own strategy, leaving Athens out of the dialogue and adopting decisions that hurt Greece.