Czech president proposes Greece host migrant centers to settle debt problems

© Marko Djurica
The president of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman has suggested Greece could pay off its international debt by hosting deportation centers. He believes Athens could cash in on helping to deport migrants from Europe.

"Detention centers would be built on Greek islands to where migrants from Europe would be deported ... and Greece would, by maintaining these detention centers, pay its otherwise uncollectible foreign debt," Zeman said.

The Czech president, an outspoken critic of the refugee influx, was speaking in an interview with a Czech television station, as cited by Reuters. He said it was "an original idea that could kill two birds with one stone.”

In January, Zeman said integrating Muslims into Europe was “practically impossible,” citing an example of the mass sexual assaults perpetrated by migrants in the German city of Cologne on New Year's Eve.

“Let them have their culture in their countries and not take it to Europe, otherwise it will end up like Cologne,” the Czech president said.

He also called the refugee influx an “organized invasion,” which mostly consists of young men, who should go back and take up arms against Islamic State.

“I am profoundly convinced we are facing an organized invasion and not a spontaneous movement of refugees," Zeman said in December.

However, it seems as though Germany may not be too keen on the president’s plan or that of the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who suggested Greece be given more time to resolve its budget problems and greater flexibility should be shown.

"The refugee issue and the aid program for Greece should not be mixed," a spokesman for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Reuters on Sunday.

Athens is facing a massive bottleneck of migrants, as its northern neighbors have blocked off their borders to the vast majority of refugees, leaving them stuck in Greece. Around 30,000 migrants are currently in the north of the country, waiting for Macedonia to reopen its border so they can continue their journey towards Germany.

Greek police said on Sunday that the Macedonian authorities are now demanding asylum seekers prove they have come from war zones, if they want to travel to Europe. This would mean that people from Aleppo would be considered refugees, but citizens from Damascus would not be allowed to enter.

On March 1, The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated that more than 122,000 migrants arrived in Greece in January and February, which is more than in the entire first six months of 2015.

The Greek Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Zeman’s proposals, while the EU is set to meet in Turkey on Monday to try and find ways to stem the migrant crisis.

In February, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the EU risks turning his country into a refugee “warehouse” unless other nations in the bloc share the burden of the migrant crisis.

"We will not accept turning the country into a permanent warehouse of souls with Europe continuing to function as if nothing is happening," Tsipras told parliament on February 24, according to Reuters.