Closing Balkan borders to migrants could trigger a grave humanitarian crisis in Greece, the minister in charge of migrants, Ioannis Mouzalas told German newspaper Handelsblatt Thursday.
Sealed borders would not stop more migrants and refugees from arriving in his country, Mouzalas warned.
“The surge will not stop. The refugees seek protection because their lives are in danger, they are desperate,” the Greek alternate minister of immigration policy said in the interview.
The comments come as leaders of the 28 EU members states meet in Brussel Thursday, where the migration crisis could play a key role in the two-day summit. The leaders will call for further action in main migration transit countries, noting that "the flows of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey remain much too high," according to a draft of a statement for the Brussels meeting seen by dpa.
Austria, which is the gateway for thousands of refugees to wealthy nations of Northern and Western Europe, made a series of moves this week to sharply limit the number of asylum claims it will allow, potentially denying entry to many arriving from Slovenia.
That triggered a chain of similar reactions in countries upstream along the so-called Balkan migration route – Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia - and left Greece worried that it will end up stranded with a mass of migrants just as more press on from Turkey.
Mouzalas dismissed accusations that Greece is not doing enough to protect its border with Turkey and prevent the migrants from arriving and continuing on north, toward Europe.
“We have the best possible controls on land and maritime borders,” he said, but added that international law requires Greece to take in all refugees arriving by sea.
His country boosted the number of officers deployed at EU’s border management agency FRONTEX to 1,800 from 700, Mouzalas said, pointing out that “other EU countries” showed no enthusiasm to contribute.