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Respect for human rights must coexist with security in approach to migration, Koumoutsakos says
(Eurokinissi / Γιώργος Κονταρίνης)

Respect for human rights must coexist with security in approach to migration, Koumoutsakos says

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"Democratic sternness with respect for human rights is the solution," Koumoutsakos said

The government's ideological position on migration is that respect for human rights must coexist with protecting the security of citizens, Alternate Minister for Migration Policy George Koumoutsakos said on Tuesday at the Economist Conference in Athens, in his first public speech after taking over his new duties.

"Democratic sternness with respect for human rights is the solution," Koumoutsakos said, noting that this sternness ultimately served to protect human rights because excessive leniency led to "hellish conditions" such as those seen in Moria and Vathy.

An unmanageable situation combining illegal migrants, legal migrants and refugees created social upheaval and often led to a rise of the far right in the areas where this occurred, he added, increasing the chances for creating "a fertile ground for extremist or other terrorist elements and, with these, a major common challenge that everyone must face."

The government's goal, the minister said, was to speed up the processing of asylum applications and implement a "robust and effective returns programme". In this, Koumoutsakos asked for the political support of the European Union in efforts to carry out legal returns to states that "either due to their government culture or their internal issues had difficulty responding."

Koumoutsakos said the government will seek to strengthen relations with Europe on the basis of "solidarity that is not given but earned" and responsibility in the way that Greece handled its own problems, so that it would then have a stronger foundation for demanding solidarity of its partners.

Greece intends to further strengthen regional cooperation in the Mediterranean, with Cyprus, Malta, Italy and Spain, so that the countries of southern Europe can formulate effective policies, but also restore channels of communication with Turkey so that the Joint Statement on migration can continue to be implemented, he added.

Concluding, he predicted that the migration and refugee issue was a major geopolitical problem that was "here to stay", and had social, economic and security ramifications. "It is not a crisis that is over. It will be here for many years, simply changing and having peaks and troughs," he noted, adding that hard work but also good luck were necessary for dealing with the problem.

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