Despite being pushed by the international community, Greece has rejected joint patrols for refugees in the Aegean with Turkey, world press reports note.
Greece “Can’t Discuss” Aegean Migrant Patrols With Turkey
Agence France Presse/
Greece on Oct. 13 dismissed a suggestion it should set up joint patrols in the Aegean Sea with regional rival Turkey, as Europe struggles to control its worst migrant crisis since World War II.
“We cannot discuss newfangled ideas that have recently come to light, such as joint Greek-Turkish patrols of maritime borders,” the Greek foreign ministry said in a statement.
Albeit NATO allies, Greece and Turkey have a fraught history going back centuries and remain at loggerheads over territorial and airspace rights in the Aegean.
On Oct. 12, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said there was a pressing need for Greece and Turkey to cooperate to check trafficker networks that migrants are resorting to in their desperate bid to reach Europe.
“We have at this time, especially in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey, a situation in which the borders are open in the sense that traffickers can act as they like there, and which leads many people to put their lives at immediate risk,” Seibert said.
“This is something that must change,” he added.
Greek daily Kathimerini on Oct. 13 said Athens fears that Ankara could exploit the refugee issue to strengthen its presence in the Aegean, where it claims the waters and airspace surrounding many Greek islands near its coasts.
The foreign ministry on Oct. 13 said the Greek government was keen to work with Turkey on stamping out people-smuggling networks.
But this would entail Ankara agreeing to share information, it noted. Greece says it also wants Turkey to apply a bilateral agreement on migrant readmission which is currently all but inactive.
Over 710,000 refugees and migrants — mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq — entered the European Union in the first nine months of this year according to EU border agency Frontex.
This includes over 400,000 people that have landed on Greek islands from Turkey, while dozens more have died trying to make the crossing.
Greece Says No Aegean Patrol Plans With Turkey
Greece said on Tuesday it had no plan to carry out joint sea patrols with neighboring Turkey to stem an influx of migrants and refugees into Europe.
A record 400,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece this year from nearby Turkey, most fleeing war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and hoping to reach wealthier northern Europe.
Many others have died at sea while making the short but perilous crossing on flimsy rubber boats. The member states of Europe, meanwhile, have struggled to agree on a strategy to control the flow of people.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday suggested that Greek and Turkish coast guard and navy team up to crack down on traffickers that migrants are turning to in their effort to reach Europe.
“Greece … never considered assigning to its navy or armed forces in general the task of confronting refugees of war, and nor can it even discuss the novel ideas expressed lately, such as that of joint Greek-Turkish patrolling of maritime borders,” foreign ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras said in a statement.
He said that Greece wants to cooperate with Turkey to improve the management of migrant inflows and crack down on trafficking but that this could be done mainly by exchanging information or sending back migrants who arrive without documentation.
Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas called on the EU to treat Turkey generously and offer it “incentives and rewards” including financial support to accommodate refugees there.
Greece Rules Out Aegean Patrols With Turkey
Greece Tuesday rejected a proposal for joint patrols with Turkey to search for migrants trying to cross the Agaean Sea.
The Greek Foreign Ministry said the idea was out of the question. Reports in the past week that the EU Commission was working with Turkey on such an action plan had caused consternation in Athens.
For decades, Greece and Turkey have been in continual conflict over questions of sovereignty in the Agaean.
Thousands of refugees have been crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey into Greece amid the growing regional refugee crisis. In the past 10 months, more than 450,000 migrants have taken this route to get into Greece – and therefore the EU – according to the UN commission on refugees.