Kathimerini Greece Newsroom
As Germany indicated on Tuesday that it would take in more than 1,500 refugees from Lesvos and other Greek islands, the Greek government welcomed the move, indicating however that it should not be seen as rewarding irregular immigration.
The German government confirmed that it would take in 1,553 recognized refugees from the Greek islands – families with children, according to foreign wire services.
The decision was reportedly based on a proposal by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and came amid mounting pressure on Germany to make a larger contribution to tackling the humanitarian crisis on the Aegean islands.
After Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke by telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mitsotakis’ office issued a statement describing Germany’s decision as a “positive move which in no way rewards those who attempt to enter the country illegally.”
Lesvos to be emptied of migrants by Easter
Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said that thousands of refugees and migrants stranded by the destruction of the Moria camp will have left the eastern Aegean island by next spring.
“Of the roughly 12,000 refugees here currently, I foresee 6,000 being transferred to the mainland by Christmas and the rest by Easter, Chrysochoidis told The Guardian on Lesvos on Tuesday.
“The people of this island have gone through a lot. They’ve been very patient,” he told the British paper.
Roughly two-thirds of the migrants on the island are Afghans who will be granted asylum and given travel papers Chrysochoidis said, adding that it is essential, however, that they agree to move into the makeshift camp being set up to temporarily replace Moria so that their asylum applications can be processed.
The minister also hailed support from Germany, France and a few other European Union countries that stepped forward to help by taking in a total of around 2,000 refugees.
“It’s very generous, very brave,” Chrysochoidis told The Guardian. “All over Europe, countries have their own internal political problems around this issue but I also think they [EU states] can see we are protecting the bloc’s borders, we have greatly minimized flows.”