ABTTF President: ‘All of these statements which instrumentalise the Turkish community in Western Thrace whom are Greek citizens reflects a mindset which sees us as a threat’.
Discussions regarding the expansion of the current migrants and asylum seekers reception centre or the opening of a new reception centre are continuing following the visit of Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi to Evros on Monday 8 February 2021.
According to reports in the press, Minister Mitarachi expressed that the government is determined to protect the borders and to curb the flows of illegal immigration with respect to the construction of a new reception centre in Orestiada (Kumçiftliği) or the expansion of the existing one, adding that improvements are needed in order to create better conditions at the migrant reception centre in the region.
Meanwhile, Panagiotis Sgouridis, Vice-President of the Independent Greeks (ANEL) Party, said that the minority living in Western Thrace has a population of 120,000 in Western Thrace and that it would be dangerous to expand the reception centre in Orestiada (Kumçiftliği) in order to host 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers all of them being Muslim. Speaking to the programme +7 on the television of the Municipality of Orestiada (Kumçiftliği), New Democracy Party (NEA) Rodopi MP Evripidis Stylianidis said the following with respect to the new building which is to be constructed for the migrants and asylum seekers and by referring to his past statements targeting the Turkish community in Western Thrace: ‘They tried to show that I fear the spread of Muslims in Thrace, on the contrary, I care about Western Thrace Muslims, a peaceful Muslim minority. The fact that fundamentalist elements begin to develop in their religious or social structures will be a problem for them. With the support of those who have aimed at this fundamentalism in the region, the first possible target will be our moderate, peaceful, highly integrated Muslim minority citizens’.
Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) made the following statement: ‘It is a positive step for the government to build a new reception centre for migrants and asylum seekers coming to the country, or to plan to expand the existing facility in Evros(Meriç) which forms the external border of the European Union. Indeed, it is repeated in international reports that a modern facility should be created in accordance with humanitarian conditions for migrants and asylum seekers coming to our country which experiences a significant flow of migrants. We welcome the government's step in this direction in that respect. Unfortunately, the deputies of our region, Panayotis Sgouridis and Evripidis Stylianidis, are targeting us by pursuing political interests. The argumanet that migrants, combined with us, will create a dangerous situation is very unfortunate and reflects a mentality that sees us, who are Greek citizens, as a threat. The fact that they produce claims that are not connected to the reality by instrumentalising us regarding the steps aimed at protecting our country's borders and create better conditions for migrants and asylum seekers coming to the country has the potential to mobilize right-wing and radical elements by fuelling nationalism in the country, everyone should be very careful at this point’.