ATHENS – As refugees and migrants keep coming to Greece despite measures to stop them, Migration Minister Dimitris Keridis said it’s time for the European Union to take a second look at a 2016 swap deal with Turkey.
Under the agreement that’s essentially been suspended, Turkey was supposed to contain more than 4 million of them who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.
Instead, Turkey has let human traffickers keep operating in sending refugees and migrants across the Aegean to five Greek islands near Turkey’s coast and along the land border near the Evros River.
Keridis said the pact needs to be amended but didn’t say how while at the same time saying while Greece is especially affected that any details have to be worked out between the EU and Turkey, said The New Arab website.
No sanctions have been brought against Turkey human smugglers operating at the same time Turkey has joined activists and major media in claiming refugee pushbacks, which Greece’s New Demoracy government denied.
Keridis said Greece is on the frontlines and exterior borders of the EU in trying to hold back refugees and migrants after the bloc closed its borders, leaving the problem largely on Greece during its economic and austerity crisis.
The issue is due to be debated at a meeting of Greek and Turkish officials scheduled for Dec. 7 in Greece’s second-largest city Thessaloniki during a detente that has seen tensions ratcheted down.
The 2016 agreement required Turkey to contain refugees and migrants and take back those deemed ineligible for asylum but only a relative handful have been returned and others keep coming.
The EU and Turkey worked out a one-for-one arrangement; for every Syrian sent back to Turkey, a Syrian refugee already in Turkey would be offered a new home in an EU country.
In return for Turkey’s commitment, the EU extended an aid package, amounting to 6 billion euros ($6.39 billion) as well as promises of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and faster-track entry into the bloc, which hasn’t happened.