Egypt is a key country in managing irregular migration: Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum

Eman Youssef in Athens , Thursday 25 Jan 2024

Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Dimitris Kairidis spoke to Ahram Online about the current cooperation between his country and Egypt and the priorities and challenges for Greece.

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Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Dimitris Kairidis while conducting the interview with Ahram Online reporter.

 

Kairidis believes in undercutting the smugglers' business model and combatting their criminal networks that put immigrants' lives at risk every day. He also said that one of the priorities for 2024 is to enhance alternative legal pathways to migration according to the increased needs of the growing Greek economy.

Ahram Online: How would you describe the current immigration situation in Greece? What are the challenges, priorities and developments?

Dimitris Kairidis: Greece has managed the international surge in irregular migration post-pandemic in 2023 better than most European countries, thanks to the vigilant guarding of borders and its upgraded reception and asylum system. Our main source of concern has traditionally been the border with Turkey, but since September of last year, we have witnessed much better cooperation with our eastern neighbour. One of our priorities for 2024 is to enhance alternative legal pathways to migration according to the increased needs of the growing Greek economy.

AO: How has Greece handled the influx of migrants and refugees in recent years? What new measures have been taken in this regard?

DK: Much better than many other European countries, there has been a lot of progress in handling asylum seekers since 2019. Greece has a well-functioning reception and asylum system, and it processes asylum applications quickly and credibly.

AO: Can you evaluate the cooperation between Greece and Egypt regarding immigration issues? What are the areas of collaboration, and what outcomes have been achieved so far?

DK: Greece has constantly reiterated to its European partners that Egypt is a key country in managing irregular migration. Egypt is carrying a huge burden with the millions of refugees that it hosts. Therefore, it deserves Europe's generous financial support. We particularly appreciate that the Egyptian coast, unlike the coasts of neighbouring countries, remains secure.

AO: Recently, an agreement on providing 5000 workers in the field of agriculture was signed between Egypt and Greece. Can you tell us more about the progress of this agreement and if there will be any other agreements in the future in different fields?

DK: Egyptians are welcome in Greek society. There is a certain chemistry between our two peoples, and many Greek employers are willing to hire Egyptian workers, particularly in agriculture, tourism, and construction. The recently signed agreement is one more expression of the close cooperation between our two countries. We now have to implement it.

AO: Are there any other joint initiatives underway to tackle migration issues?

DK: Egypt and Greece have a very old agreement for fishing workers that has worked well for decades. Furthermore, we are discussing with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) the inclusion of Egypt in its privileged partnership program.

AO: What are the plans to enhance cooperation between Greece and Egypt in immigration management?

DK: Our goal is to dispense with illegal and encourage legal migration. Therefore, we must be ready to take bold action when necessary, as we did with the irregular flow from eastern Libya to southern Crete. This means that irregular arrivals should be followed with speedy returns back. We certainly do not want another "Lampedusa" in the Mediterranean. I have great confidence that the Egyptian authorities understand the challenge and the risks involved.

AO: In your opinion, what role can Egypt play in the broader European Union's efforts to address migration challenges?

DK: Egypt's contribution to migration management has been significant and underappreciated in Europe. I have personally taken the floor many times in recent ministerial councils in Brussels to emphasize the need to do more for Egypt. This has become even more urgent after the eruption of the Gaza crisis that threatens the stability of the entire Middle East.

AO: What are the priorities regarding the migration policies between Greece and Egypt?

DK: Our top priority is making the recently signed bilateral agreement work and establishing legal alternatives to migration through which both Egyptians and Greeks can benefit. We must undercut the smugglers' business model and combat their criminal networks that put immigrants' lives at risk every day.

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