During Detente, Greece, Turkey Look to Team Against Human Smugglers

December 5, 2023

ATHENS – When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes to Athens Dec. 7 for talks with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitotakis, one of the key items on the agenda reportedly will be trying to deal with smugglers sending refugees to Greece.

That’s often done on rubber dinghies and rickety craft going to five islands near Turkey’s coast, with Greece accused of pushing them back – which it denies – and Turkey blamed by Greece for not stopping them.

The issue will be on the table, media reports said, included in a wide-ranging package of topics during a period of rapprochement as Erdogan has stepped back from threats to diplomacy in renewing hopes of getting into the European Union.

Government sources not named in Greece said a critical component will be an agreement to form two working groups, Turkish and Greek, and made up of executives and officials from each other’s country migration ministries.

The teams will work closely together and exchange information in real-time on the movements of smugglers of illegal immigrants in Evros (north-east Greece) and the eastern Aegean Sea, said EURACTIV.


That was said to include the idea of having two Coast Guard members, one Greek and one Turkish, stationed respectively in Izmir (coastal Turkey) and on a Greek island to be agreed upon.

Greece’s New Democracy government is reportedly looking to revitalize an essentially-suspended 2016 EU-Turkey swap deal in which refugees and migrants who made it to Greece but denied asylum would be returned to Turkey.

Some 4.4 million are being held in Turkey where they went fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan, but also sub-Saharan Africa and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

A report on EU-Turkey relations said there must be greater collaboration to deal with the human traffickers still sending refugees and migrants to Greece, including attempts on the northern land border.

That indicated Turkey is a conduit for refugees and migrants en route to trying to reach Greece on their own or with help from the smugglers, who charge thousands of euros each, and many drowning in the attempt.

It was said there was a 34 percent increase in the first 10 months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2023 with people so desperate they risk their lives in the dinghies or crossing the Evros River, many perishing.

The report explained that there was an “acute surge” of arrivals to the Greek islands, with a 237 percent increase, although they are then detained in camps and could wait two years or more for asylum applications to be decided.

A new EU migration deal currently under negotiations between member states suggests that deals with third countries for returns must be stepped up, the news site said, although the overall numbers slowed after the 2016 agreement.


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