At the bilateral meetings in Athens, Ms Keller-Sutter highlighted the ongoing and valuable collaboration on migration between the two countries. She welcomed the progress Greece has made in recent years in developing reception capacities and in managing migration. "Switzerland is proud to have contributed to this," she said. Since 2014, Switzerland has supported Greece with around CHF 12 million to strengthen its asylum and reception structures.
Necessary reforms of the European asylum and migration system
The head of the FDJP stressed the strategic importance of Greece for the common European asylum system. Ms Keller-Sutter and Mr Mitarachi exchanged views on the problems with the planned reform of the European asylum and migration system. The Federal Councillor expressed her disappointment that no tangible progress in this necessary reform has yet materialised. She noted that initial steps are now needed in those areas where there is already some agreement among member states, such as better protection of the external borders and the joint return of migrants.
A better picture of the situation on the ground
Following the bilateral meetings, Ms Keller-Sutter visited the Mavrovouni camp on the Greek island of Lesbos to get an idea of the situation on the ground. Switzerland has provided humanitarian aid there by supplying drinking water and medical equipment to combat the pandemic, as well as other humanitarian supplies. “It is important for me to see for myself the situation on the ground in Lesbos,” said Ms Keller-Sutter. Switzerland was one of the first countries to support Greece with emergency aid and the reception of unaccompanied minors after the Moria camp fire in September 2020.
In the morning, Ms Keller-Sutter had met with representatives of various international organisations based in Athens (UNHCR, ICRC, UNICEF and IOM) as well as the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to exchange views on the current migration situation in Greece.
Committed to protecting vulnerable groups
The head of the FDJP had already visited the Oikos shelter for unaccompanied minor girls in Athens the previous day. This facility houses 16 girls aged between 12 and 18, on average for a period of around 100 days, and was set up with financial support from the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). During her visit, Ms Keller-Sutter praised the commitment of local non-governmental organisation Zeuxis to providing a particularly vulnerable group of people with a safe environment, support and prospects for the future. “This project is a good example of how Switzerland can help the most vulnerable in a practical way,” she said.
Working visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina
Prior to her visit to Greece, Ms Keller-Sutter had travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina for a working visit. She met with Security Minister Selmo Cikotić and Migration Minister Miloš Lučić in Sarajevo on 21 October, where migration was also at the centre of talks. Following these bilateral meetings, Ms Keller-Sutter visited a Swiss-supported migration centre near Sarajevo. Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina have had a migration partnership since 2009.
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