EU president tells migrants: 'Do not risk coming to Europe'
Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30
Donald Tusk has urged migrants seeking better economic prospects not to risk the journey to Europe.
The European Union president is travelling throughout the continent, meeting leaders to find ways to mitigate the refugee crisis.
"I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe," Mr Tusk said in Athens after meeting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
"Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing."
More than 120,000 refugees have crossed into Greece in the first two months of the year, according to the UN refugee agency, with the government estimating 25,000 of those are stranded there.
The European Commission announced on Wednesday it was seeking €700m in emergency aid for Greece and other countries dealing with the wave of refugees. European leaders will meet in Brussels on Monday to try to hammer out a solution.
Mr Tusk has already visited the rest of the countries along the Western Balkan route used by migrants travelling to northern Europe, including Croatia and Austria, and is scheduled to fly to Turkey, the main departure point for refugees heading to Greece.
The emergency summit on Monday will address the economic problems caused by individual countries imposing border controls in an effort to stem the inflow of undocumented travellers.
"The strength of our single currency relies on the free movement of goods and services as well as people, and therefore the protection of our external border is our joint European project," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a state campaign rally on Wednesday.
"All 28 members of the European Union define this in the same way and have said that we need to ensure that this border is protected."
Several nations within the bloc, including Denmark and Germany, have launched temporary border controls to restrain the inflow of migrants. The reintroduction of those measures on a long-term basis could cost the EU as much as €18bn by restricting the free exchange of goods, according to the European Commission.
Refugees coming from the Aegean islands are piling up in the country's main port of Piraeus and in central Athens. Greece has warned that migrants will be trapped if countries keep their borders closed, possibly fomenting a humanitarian crisis.
"Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country," Mr Tusk said yesterday.