Greek officials have fired back angrily at various European officials who are behind a plan to exclude the country from the passport-free travel zone known as the Schengen zone.
EU interior ministers discussed the plan on Monday, which includes effectively changing Europe’s southern border from Greece to the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia’s southern border with Greece.
The European plans include deploying a police force along the Greek-FYROM border.
Greek migration minister Ioannis Mouzalas fired back at the European “experiment” saying that the plan would turn Greece into a “cemetery of souls” and warned against turning the refugee crisis into a blame game, but quickly turning the blame on Europe.
The fault, he said, rests with other European governments for failing to successfully implement an agreed-upon plan that would settle the refugees in Turkey and for refusing to fulfill promises to Greece.
“There’s a big and unfair blame game against Greece,” Mouzalas said to reporters at a meeting of European Union interior ministers in Amsterdam. Europe, he said, has shortchanged Greece by providing smaller-than-promised numbers of everything from cots and fingerprinting machines to border guards.
Mouzalas told reporters Athens wanted 1,800 officers from the EU border patrol force known as Frontex, but got only 800. Of the 28 coast guard ships requested by Greece, only six have arrived, he added.
He also called the idea of sending Frontex officers to the Greek-FYROM border to halt migrants there “illegal” and insisted more Frontex officers should be sent to his country instead, then calling the European plan a “panic” move.
Greek public order minister Nikos Toskas said, “It is very difficult to stop small boats coming [to Greece]…except sinking or shooting them, which is against our European values and Greek values and we will not do that.”
Ministers arriving for the meeting at Amsterdam’s Maritime Museum were met by protesters in two boats, one full of showroom dummies wearing red life vests similar to those worn by migrants crossing from Turkey and another with a large sign saying: “Leaders of Europe, it’s not the polls you should worry about. It’s the history books.”