With reference to the article entitled “Officials turn blind eye to abuse of asylum seekers” which appeared in the Helsinki Times dated 21-27 March 2013, I would like to inform your readers of the following.

Firstly, I would like to emphasise and underline the fact that the Greek Government has not and does not turn a blind eye to the multi-faceted problems of migrants and refugees in Greece and in the adjacent geographical area.

As is well known, Greece constitutes the European Union’s south-eastern most extended land and sea border which has been constantly subject to a massive illegal migration and asylum seeking pressures resulting in hundreds of thousands of illegal economic migrants and refugees who have found their first shelter in Greece.

In this regard, the Greek Government is determined to tackle the problem effectively and humanely in accordance with the EU acquis on migration and asylum. In an effort to reform the asylum and immigration process, and in cooperation with the appropriate institutions within the EU, Greece has already embarked on a comprehensive system of relevant legislation.

Greece has created the Revised Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management. The plan is devised to meet the current special challenges of irregular migration, to rationalise the asylum system, to tackle abuse, and to establish an effective system of border management and returns policy. The plan is being implemented and is updated and revised on a regular basis.

Of course, we condemn any maltreatment and harassment directed towards any illegal migrant or refugee. But, at the same time, isolated cases should not negate the efforts and policies of the competent Greek authorities which are faced with a huge socio-economic problem caused by the current political developments and lack of stability in the Middle East and North Africa. Equally obvious, the presence of hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees strains the already over-burdened economic situation in Greece and affects the social cohesion of Greek society.

As agreed upon by all European players, illegal migration and asylum seeking has become European Union’s problem, which constitutes a core principle in EU law, and should be addressed by all member states in an equal and fair manner.

To this effect, the Greek Government is fully committed to completing the establishment of a common European asylum and migration system.

Yours sincerely,
Christos Kontovounisios
Ambassador of Greece in
Helsinki, 1.4.2013