Greece will ask for help under the EU’s civil protection mechanism, the country’s migration minister told euronews on Wednesday.
Speaking in a telephone interview with euronews correspondent Efi Koutsokosta, Ioannis Mouzalas said the Greek government would request foreign assistance on Thursday.
“Tomorrow we will officially request the triggering of EU mechanism and we hope that the EU will respond in a better way than with other countries in the past,” Mouzalas said.
“The game of blaming Greece for everything has to stop,” he added. “The EU should pay attention to the implementation of the agreement with Turkey and it also has to ask some countries which are closing their borders to get things in order.”
The Financial Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that Athens faced being suspended from the passport-free Schengen Zone if it did not seek help.
Mouzalas denied that Greece faces being booted out of Schengen; EU officials told the Reuters news agency that some governments have raised the possibility, albeit only informally.
More than 700,000 migrants have crossed into Greece this year, according to the United Nations.
Public authorities there have been unable to cope.
Human Rights Watch has said on the island of Lesbos – less than six kilometres from Turkey – that the registration process is “absolutely chaotic.”
The NGO has also pointed to lack of proper medical help and poor living conditions for the refugees and migrants.
The influx of people fleeing conflict and trauma in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq has confounded European leaders for months.
That is why on Sunday the bloc signed a deal with Turkey in the hope Turkish officials would do more to stop them from making the journey to the EU in the first place.
“If we don’t protect our external borders in a better way sooner or later member states will start controlling their borders within the European Union,” said Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice-president.
“That will be a mortal blow to Schengen and we need to do everything to prevent that from happening.”
Supporters of deeper European integration have long hailed the travel zone – currently made up of 22 EU and 4 non-EU countries – as one of Europe’s greatest achievements.
But critics argue that it leaves countries open to security threats and encourages illegal immigration.