Honourable Members,

As we are siting here more than 40,000 migrants are stuck in the so-called hotspots in the Greek Islands

Most of them are living under conditions that are totally unacceptable.

Many of them are children.

 I can just imagine being a mother, in these hotspots with children, responsible for children, and living in a tent where its cold, where there is not a lot of food, and with terrible conditions in many aspects, and not being able to take your responsibility as a mother.

Or being a mother in a totally different country, knowing that your teenage boy is alone there as an unaccompanied minor.

These conditions are not acceptable. This we cannot stand having in the European Union in 2020.

I am probably not the only one who lays awake at night thinking about these conditions that people are living under. But of course no one will be helped by me being awake at night.

I am the Commissioner and I am responsible for doing things and here tonight you will, quite rightly, ask me what the Commission is doing and what more we can do.

The Commission is supporting the Greek authorities. By finding extra shelter for children on the mainland.

We will continue to support Greece to relocate people from the islands to new centres. New centres that will meet the minimum European standards for humanitarian intervention

We support the Greek authorities with our European funds. To mention just a few:

  • 50 million euro from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) that support up to 2,000 places in shelters for unaccompanied minors on the mainland;
  • 4.2 million euro for the International Organisation for Migration to create additional safe zones for children on all the Greek islands,
  • Funds for a specific facility for vulnerable applicants, KaraTepe, on Lesvos. Specific facilities also exist on Kos and Leros.

And we will continue to support Greece with our funds.

I welcome the appointment by the Greek Government of a national coordinator for unaccompanied minors. The Greek Government has shown the right emphasis on this.

I welcome that the Greek Government is committed to improving conditions for migrants and also starting returning those who are not eligible for international protection.

And the additional incentives for the deployment of doctors in the reception and identification centres is important.

Unaccompanied minors should be released from protective custody and brought to safe zones, zones that are suitable for long-term accommodation.

Is this enough? Apparently not. We need to do more.

Yesterday I met with the newly appointed Greek Migration Minister Mitarakis. We discussed how we can help Greece more and also what the Greek Government and authorities are planning.

Yesterday the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) signed an agreement with Greek authorities to double their staff in Greece.

We will continue to show solidarity with Greece. This includes financial support of over 2.23 billion euro

But the Commission alone cannot do everything. We also need support from Member States. We are lacking a common European asylum and migration system. We need voluntary support from Member States.

Greece has asked for the relocation of unaccompanied minors, and I strongly support this.

I support all solidarity efforts between Member States, especially when it comes to children.

I call on Member States: continue to help Greece, continue voluntary relocations, with our financial support.

We will continue to work closely with the Greek authorities to help facilitate any voluntary solidarity efforts by Member States.

I call on Member States to speed up the necessary procedures to reunify children with their families as soon as possible.

Honourable Members,

We talk about Migration Policy in Europe,

Even though we see an increase of arrivals in Greece, and especially in the Greek Islands, the overall situation is not a crisis. We have seen fewer irregular arrivals into the European Union than for many years.

We are not in crisis. We do not have a migration crisis in Europe.

But there at least 40,000 individuals on the Greek Islands and they are in crisis. We need to support them.

And the most effective thing that we can do is to find a common solution with Parliament and Member States for a new pact on migration and asylum.

Every week, every month that we do not find a way, these people are paying too high a price.