Standing next to visiting Dutch leader Mark Rutte, Mitsotakis was visibly angered by a question from Ingeborg Beugel, a reporter identifying herself as a journalist from Dutch media. Beugel asked:
“PM Mitsotakis, when at last will you stop lying about pushbacks, lying about what’s happening with refugees in Greece. Please do not insult me and the intelligence of all journalists all over the world. There has been overwhelming evidence and you keep denying and lying. This is like narcissistic abuse. Why are you not honest? (about migrant pushbacks)”
Mitsotakis fired back at the journalist, accusing her of insulting not just himself but the Greek people as well:
“What I won’t accept is that in this office you will insult me or the Greek people with accusations and expressions that aren’t supported by material facts when this country has been dealing with a migration crisis of unrepresented intensity that has been saving hundreds if not thousands of people at sea,” Mitsotakis stated.
Greek forces are out rescuing people at sea “every single day,” he said. “Yes, we are intercepting boats that come from Turkey as we have the right to do in accordance with European regulation and waiting for the Turkish Coast Guard to come and pick them up to return them to Turkey.”
He continued: “Rather than putting the blame on Greece you should put the blame on those who have been instrumentalizing migration systematically, pushing people in a desperate situation from a safe country, because I need to remind you that people who are in Turkey are not in danger,” Mitsotakis said. “We have a tough but fair policy in migration.”
He finished his statement by saying “I won’t accept anyone pointing the finger to this government and accusing it of inhumane behavior.”
Watch the tense exchange in the video below:
Greece denies migrant pushbacks
In October, the EU executive called for an investigation into alleged migrant pushbacks by Greece, which Athens flatly denies.
The announcement followed reports in the German media outlets Der Spiegel and ARD, according to which some of these operations reportedly turned violent as Greek special forces sometimes concealed their identities when pushing migrants back into the Aegean Sea.
“Some of these reports are shocking,” said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, adding she expects a thorough investigation into these incidents.
“These reports need to be investigated,” she said and added that there seem to be indications of orchestrated violence in Europe’s external borders.
Greece denied the allegations. In a statement, Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi said that Athens operates within the parameters of international and European law.
“We strongly deny these allegations. Greek borders are EU borders and we operate within international and European law to protect them. Illegal sea crossings are highly dangerous and they should be prevented in accordance with the 2016 Joint Statement, which the EU needs to ensure is properly enforced. Europe remains the target of criminal gangs who are exploiting people who wish to enter the EU illegally. We make no apology for our continued focus on breaking up these human trafficking operations, and protecting Europe’s border,” Mitarachi said.