ATHENS – Austria, which is stepping up border control checks to keep out refugees and migrants, wants to work with Greece to slow human traffickers who keep sending them, with Turkey allowing them to keep operating.
That’s during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union under which Turkey is supposed to contain some 4.4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.
Austria’s Interior Minister Gerhard Karner and Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis announced the joint fight against the “trafficking mafia” at a working meeting in Vienna, said the site Vindobona.
The protection of the EU’s external border and the fight against international “trafficking in human beings’ were at the forefront, the report said, with Greece’s New Democracy government also trying to seal the borders
“Europe must be protected from the trafficking mafia,” said Karner, adding that “Greece is an important partner in this, especially in the area of EU external border protection,” as it’s a key destination.
They underlined the need to continue the Vilnius Initiative, in which Greece, Austria, Lithuania and Poland participated to talk about how to keep out refugees and migrants after the EU shut them out earlier.
They said that Greece has special importance in European external border management due to its geographical location, Mitarachis stressing how Greece is extending an anti-refugee wall on the border with Turkey.
He said the 2016 deal should be enforced as Turkey has accused Greece of pushing back refugees and migrants but hasn’t been sanctioned for letting human traffickers to keep sending them.
“It is both about preventing illegal border crossings of migrants and fulfilling the readmission agreement,” Mitarakis said. “Yes to asylum who need it, no to illegal smuggling,” he said, not explaining how people could seek asylum if barred.
Greece has accused EU member states of a refusal to accommodate refugees. According to DerStandard, Mitarachis was “disappointed’ by the lack of support for the redistribution of refugees in the EU, some countries reneging on promises to help take some of the overload from Greece.