ATHENS – After seven years of taking in refugees and migrants, Greece has had enough and said that other European Union countries – a number reneged on promises to help – now have to step up .
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said it was “disappointing” that other EU states had only offered 1,017 relocation spots so far, adding that there was a “lack of willingness” among a “majority” of members to contribute.
Some, like Hungary, aren’t hiding their contempt for refugees and migrants have barred them and the EU has closed its borders to them, dumping the problem largely on Greece as well as Spain, Malta and Italy.
Turkey is letting human traffickers keep sending them during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU. There are some 4.4 million who went to Turkey fleeing troubles in their homelands.
Most of those heading to Greece aim to get to five Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast but others are still trying to cross the land border along the Evros River where Greece is extending a wall to keep them out.
EU migration ministers in June said a mechanism would be set up to redistribute refugees to other countries in the 27 member bloc but most have refused or looked the other way as it’s voluntary.
The New Democracy government has been trying to keep out refugees and migrants who want asylum and has been accused by human rights groups activists and Turkey’s Coast Guard of unlawfully pushing them back.
Turkey’s pro-government newspaper The Daily Sabah now claimed that six refugees, including four children, drowne in the Aegean after their boat was pushed by Greek security forces, which Greece has repeatedly denied.
The paper said that Turkey’s Coast Guard – which hasn’t moved to stop the traffickers – rescued 15 others, aided by local crews off the coast, and a search was underway for another.
They were, the paper said, stopped by Greece’s Coast Guard near Lesbos and the allegation was that their rubber dinghy was punctured to make it sink before it was pushed back.
In his speech at the United General Assembly President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called out Greece for what he said was its “persecution”of migrants in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean.
“While we struggle to prevent other babies … from washing up on the shores, Greece is turning the Aegean Sea into a graveyard for refugees with its unlawful and reckless pushbacks,” said Erdoğan.
“The refugee crisis cannot be solved by sinking the boats of innocents who set out to seek a better future, leaving them to die, and by building walls on borders, and filling concentration camps with people,” he said.
Greece rebutted the accusations and the EU has done nothing to sanction Turkey for continuing to let traffickers keep sending refugees and migrants with impunity while Greece is being blamed.