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Greek PM Mitsotakis Says EU Boxed in by Turkey, Refugee Crisis

October 18, 2019

Greece and the European Union find themselves with a hot potato in an increasingly intransigent Turkey, drilling for energy in Cypriot sovereign waters and threatening to flood the bloc – through Greek islands – with more refugees and migrants, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Speaking to Politico in Brussels, where he was attending his first EU heads of state affair since winning July 7 snap elections, he noted the increasing number of refugees and migrants that Turkey lets human traffickers send to Greek islands during an essentially suspended swap deal with the EU.

Combined with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thumbing his nose at soft EU sanctions over the Cyprus drilling, also ignoring calls from Greece and the United States to stop, ’Mitsotakis said the issues are squeezing the bloc and putting more pressure on Greece.

He also called on EU leaders to adopt a “clear stance” and “unanimously condemn” Turkey’s military invasion of northern Syria to get at the Kurds, American allies in the fight against ISIS abandoned by US President Donald Trump pulling out US troops to give Erdogan a green light.

“Turkey cannot be allowed to use the migration crisis as leverage to pressure the European Union into giving it more financial aid,” he said – although he called on the bloc earlier to do just that.

“We have given Turkey a lot of money. I think that we can discuss measures to help people seeking refuge in Turkey, but this cannot be discussed in a framework in which Turkey threatens to open its borders and flood Europe with migrants and refugees. What the European Union needs is a ‘firefighting plan’ or a Plan B, so as to ensure that what is an emergency today doesn’t turn into a full-blown crisis,” he added.

Mitsotakis’ new New Democracy government, seeing violence flaring at overcrowded detention centers and camps on islands holding more than 28,000 refugees and migrants – there’s another 50,000 on the mainland – said the pace of asylum reviews would be accelerated as would deportations back to Turkey of those deemed ineligible.

They went to Turkey fleeing war and strife in their homelands in the Middle East, particularly Afghanistan and Syria’s civil war,  using that country as a jumping off point to get to the EU before the borders were closed to them, leaving them only the option of getting asylum in Greece.

Greece has reached its limits in terms of what it can do to manage the number of refugees and migrants in the country, Mitsotakis told Politico, adding it needs “more European solidarity on this front.”

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