Right-wing Greek MP expelled from party over racist migrant boat comments
A right-wing Greek parliamentarian was expelled from the party of former prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, seeking a second term at polls next weekend, for racist remarks after the mass drowning of migrants.
The Greek coastguard was continuing its search for survivors of the sinking of a boat carrying migrants that killed at least 78 people overnight Tuesday.
Hopes of finding survivors are fading "by the minute," according to officials.
The coastguard has so far rescued 104 people from the boat which rescuers said was carrying "hundreds" of migrants.
While condemning the "tragic" loss of life, including "children", Spilios Kriketos, a lawmaker in Mitsotakis' New Democracy (ND) party, said on Thursday that Greece "cannot tolerate more migrants", in an interview on the Kontra YouTube channel.
He then accused migrants of stealing.
On Friday, ND said it had expelled him.
"Opinions such as those expressed by Spilios Kriketos have no place in our party," the party said in a statement.
"Statements of hate and racism are not part of the party's values."
Kriketos is running in the June 25 legislative elections which follow Mitsotakis's first place finish in May's polls which nonetheless left him without a clear parliamentary majority.
The main leftist opposition party Syriza on Friday called the remarks "racist" and called on the ND to expel Kriketos.
The former conservative government of Mitsotakis, in power for four years from 2019 to 2023 and credited with winning the May 25 elections, has followed a strict immigration policy and emphasised "security" and border lockdowns.
Greek media and NGOs have repeatedly accused Greece of carrying out "illegal" expulsions of migrants in the Aegean Sea, a charge rejected by the previous government.
"New Democracy implemented a strict but fair immigration policy, keeping the borders but protecting human life and saving thousands of people who were in danger at sea," the party said.
A unit for identifying disaster victims has been set up at the Migration Ministry in a southern Athens suburb.
It will receive victims' relatives and carry out DNA tests, a ministry statement said on Friday.
The unit will be open every day with interpreters available who speak English, Arabic, Pashto and Urdu, it added.
Relatives and activists have said that at least 125 Syrians were on board the migrant ship that sank off Greece.
Officials say the migrants had departed from Libya towards Italy.
The survivors are mainly from Syria, Egypt and Pakistan.
The United Nations has called for in-depth investigations into the migrant boat sinking and urgent action to prevent further tragedies.