March 6, 2016 / 1:26 PM / 3 years ago

Czech president floats idea of Greece paying debts by hosting migrant centers

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Greece could pay down its foreign debts by hosting deportation centers, giving Europe another option in tackling the migrant crisis, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Sunday.

Czech President Milos Zeman speaks during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Zeman, speaking in a broadcast interview with Czech television channel Prima, said the idea came from one of his advisers and called it “an original idea that could kill two birds with one stone”.

“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,” he said.

The European Union is holding a summit with Turkey on Monday on how to handle the migrant crisis. Germany has said that finding ways to help Greece, the main entry point for refugees into Europe, would be a priority.

Zeman has limited policymaking power but has been outspoken on the migrant issue. He has said the integration of Muslim communities is “practically impossible” and called the influx an “organized invasion”.

The Greek foreign ministry declined to comment on Zeman’s remarks on Sunday.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, lashing out on Sunday at border restrictions that led to logjams, said Greece would press for solidarity with refugees and fair burden-sharing among European Union states at Monday’s summit.

Tsipras has accused Austria and Balkan countries of “ruining Europe” by slowing the flow of migrants and refugees heading north from Greece, where some 30,000 are now trapped, waiting for Macedonia to reopen its border so they can head to Germany.

“Europe is in a nervous crisis,” Tsipras told his leftist Syriza party’s central committee. “Will a Europe of fear and racism overtake a Europe of solidarity?”

Central European leaders have been skeptical about Greece’s ability to limit migrants, many of whom are fleeing war in Syria and elsewhere, and fear Turkey will not manage to stem the number of people crossing the Aegean Sea.

They have said a back-up plan to provide help to Balkan countries along the migration route is important.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Andrew Bolton

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