Armed Forces Activities

16/02/2016 17:24:15

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' introductory speech at the Press Conference on the refugee-migrant issue


    «Ladies and Gentlemen good morning,

    we begin this press conference as we had promised on the day when, by decision of the Interministerial Committee, the Ministry of National Defence and the Armed Forces assumed the responsibility to coordinate the construction of five hotspots and two relocation centres, cooperating with the two equally apposite Ministries, the Ministry of Migration Policy and the Ministry of Citizen Protection.

    We are all present here today. As far as the Ministers are concerned, the Alternate Minister of National Defence Mr. Vitsas who, I should publicly say, bore the biggest part of the burden during this difficult period, due to my obligations at the EU and NATO Defence Ministers Meetings; the Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Mr. Mouzalas, the Alternate Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. Toskas and the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Mr. Sgouridis, who is responsible for the tender procedures, especially for the procurement of the houses.

    I would also like to publicly congratulate the Chief of HNDGS Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, the Chief of HAGS Lieutenant General Vassilios Tellidis, as well as Major General Konstantinos Floros, the commander of this huge operation acting as coordinator.

    This has been a rather difficult operation; on one hand, we faced reactions in two places, Kos Island and Diavata; I must admit though that we also received great help by certain partners of the local government administration who, in cooperation with the apposite Ministries and their personnel, as well as with the local communities, they assisted the completion of the works.

    I would like to mention the Mayor of Leros Island who – along with all the islanders – facilitated the completion of the project, as well as the Deputy Heads of Region of Chios and Samos Islands, who were constantly present during the works and helped us at regional level. I would also like to thank the Mayor and the Head of Region of Mytilene, but also many individuals, such as the personnel at the Ministry of Migration Policy, many of whom proved that there are people who work like the Armed Forces do, following similar pace and working hours. Special mention should be made of the head of the operation in Mytilene, Ms Karaggelis, who was constantly at the hotspot, during all this time. I would also like to mention the personnel of the Ministry of Citizen Protection, the Hellenic Police and the Hellenic Coast Guard, as well as the engineers from the Ministry of Citizen Protection who had assumed, before us, the issue of project assignment.

    We cooperated closely with the European Union and the local personnel, as well as with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. We met with the majority of NGOs and collaborated with them at all levels. Of course, I would like to publicly congratulate the Officers, NCOs, the men and women in the Armed Forces, for the impeccable job they did. Please allow me to make special reference to the Director at the Minister of Citizen protection, for the assistance he offered us.

    The products of the construction of infrastructure in the five hotspots and the two relocation centres will be presented by Major General Konstantinos Floros, with photos and videos, but I would also like to invite to this presentation the media who wish to attend it, after the Press Conference, so that you can see them too. We are at your disposal, not only for the centres we have scheduled visits to, but also for the ones we haven’t schedule to visit, so that you can discover for yourself the progress of the works.

    Four out of five hotspots are ready to function and host refugees without delay. The fifth hotspot – I refer to the one at Kos Island – will be ready in five days, due to certain reactions. The majority of the constructions have been completed; two infrastructure works are due.

    Starting with the case of Mytilene, you will see that it is operational to a great extent. In Samos we faced a problem concerning the continuous rainfalls, leading to a delay of the configuration of certain spaces. The installations in Samos are already operational, and on the 23rd of this month it will be completely functioning. Naturally, the exemplary infrastructure is at Chios and Schisto, which we will visit. At Diavata, most of the works have been made, it is almost ready, it can immediately host all services. At the same time, we received a request by six mayors and, before even beginning the construction, most of the preparation at the THPA has been made, so that it can be an alternative solution, provided that it can cover the needs.

    I would like to thank “The Smile of the Child”, as it has been a valuable partner to the planning and execution of this project which concerns the protection that we should ensure for the children. Ten thousand children have been lost. And this is a bet that we, the Armed Forces, have to win. Therefore, you can see from the Conference hall the presentation of a biometric identification system which regards our obligation to have a registration system for the children, which is not currently covered by the Eurodac. It is not given that the company will be the one to assume the project. We already have three tenders and all the procedures provided by the European Union for the call for tenders will be respected.

    Allow me to say at this point, since much has been said and I am informed that various reports have been received, that no direct award has ever been made. Calls for tenders will be conducted at any case, even if they will have to be accelerated tenders, under the condition that a domestic advantage will be given particularly as far as food supply is concerned; however the necessary certifications by the European Union will be respected; the directives will continue to be followed – as they already are – exactly as described.

    I would also like to thank the Hellenic Psychiatric Association which will help our task, considering that a key factor affecting the humanitarian aspect also involves the way we should approach these people, since many among them have experienced a great tragedy before reaching our country.

    In addition to all this preparation, we consider that the agreement reached at the context of the NATO Defence Ministers Meeting is very significant; it actually is the final solution to addressing the refugee issue. And we consider it to be the solution since, what Greece asked from the very beginning was to address the refugee issue at the coast of Minor Asia. There was no reason for these people, particularly entire families of refugees, to experience all this suffering in the Aegean Sea, in rough weather conditions, without the proper means, thus leading to several casualties.

    NATO will not proceed to arrestments, nor will it perform war activities. It will specifically have the task to observe and warn the Turkish Coast Guard, so as to stop the flows before the ships’ departure. It is important for us to ensure that the people that will be rescued will be led to Turkey, to designed hosting spaces, under the supervision of all international organizations. Of course, this does not mean that there will not also be in Greece a certain number of refugees that Greece can accept and host, ensuring for them the conditions that humanitarianism as well as international agreements provide for”.


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