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6th MED 5 Summit for Migration in Thessaloniki - D. Kairidis: "It is time for bold initiatives, a closer collaboration, and more Europe"

The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Dimitris Kairidis, chaired the 6th Summit of Ministers of Migration (and Interior) of the MED 5 group (Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, and Malta).

These five countries are on the front line of the migration pressure and the issue of illegal trafficking, and this requires their closest possible cooperation.

Mr. Kairidis welcomed the significant progress made on the European Migration Pact. He particularly congratulated his Spanish counterpart, Mr. Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomez, for Spain's constructive role during its presidency and the Italian counterpart, Mr. Matteo Piantedosi, for Italy's decisive contribution to reaching a preliminary agreement, albeit without unanimity, at the recent European Council in Granada.

The Thessaloniki summit is taking place against the backdrop of a significant increase in illegal migration flows, primarily in the central Mediterranean corridor but also in the eastern Mediterranean and Balkan corridors. Italy has been at the center of this surge, with thousands of asylum seekers arriving from West Africa and the Sahel via Tunisia, while Cyprus has the highest number of asylum seekers as a percentage of its population in Europe.

Mr. Kairidis noted that in Greece, the increase began in 2022 when illegal arrivals doubled compared to 2021 and has continued even more strongly in 2023. Despite this, Greece’s reception and asylum system, managed to carry out this rise of asylum requests efficiently and humanely, ensuring the safety and well-being of both the asylum seekers and local communities.

He stressed that the key issue is to manage illegal migration in a lawful manner, in line with our international commitments and European humanitarian values. European citizens demand and deserve solutions instead of simplifications and blathering regarding this complex issue, which can easily become a subject of populist exploitation and division.

The political forces of liberal democracy and reason, as represented by the Ministers participating in this Summit, must realize that the battle for an effective migration policy is also a battle to preserve the European idea and unity.

In summary, Mr. Kairidis outlined the components of such an effective migration policy, which includes:

  1. A strict and effective management of the Union’s external borders.
  2. A fast but reliable asylum process followed by returns for all rejected asylum applicants, without delays.
  3. Strengthening European solidarity and European funding for countries of first-reception.
  4. Cooperation with countries of origin and transit, such as Turkey, in order to jointly address the challenge of illegal trafficking.
  5. Combating criminal networks of smugglers and those who facilitate them.
  6. Establishing humanitarian corridors for the submission, examination, and granting of asylum.
  7. Creating or expanding legal pathways for labor mobility and migration to fill gaps in the European labor markets.

Mr. Kairidis concluded that the current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable, as the vast majority of European voters do not accept that smugglers determine who enters Europe and who does not. It is time for bold initiatives, closer cooperation, and more Europe, as reflected in the logo of this year's Summit in Thessaloniki: "European Solutions for the Common Migration Challenge."

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