THESSALONIKI – While he said he did not believe there would be another wave of Afghan refugees fleeing the murderous Taliban regime, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged to stop the human traffickers he Turkey allows to send refugees and migrants to Greece.
Speaking at an alleged Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) press conference where he did not answer journalists’ questions, only pre-screened questions written in advance, he said: “Our goal is to stop any wave long before it reaches our borders. In this, our interests and those of Turkey are aligned.
In a previous phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leaders agreed to work together to prevent Afghans from coming to either country, but Turkey has allowed this since the start of the crisis in 2015.
Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government has taken a hard line against refugees and migrants, extending a border wall to the Turkish border along the dangerous Evros River and stepping up patrols in the Aegean Sea.
Turkey’s human traffickers have been allowed to send hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants for six years, less after a largely suspended exchange deal in 2016 with the European Union.
The numbers fell further after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, just after Erdogan sent 10,000 migrants to the land border and urged them to cross before being turned back by anti-police. riot and Greek army units.
Mitsotakis did not say whether Greece would ask the EU to sanction Turkey for letting the gangs it wants to dismantle continue to work, nor did it mention that his government is prosecuting activists for rescuing refugees and migrants in the Aegean Sea trying to reach five Greek islands near the Turkish coast.
The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were targeted denied participating in the smuggling, purely to save people, saying they were doing the job of the Greek Coast Guard that human rights groups accused of pushing them back.
Mitsotakis said Greece has adopted an active border protection strategy and that migrant flows have “significantly decreased” in 2021 compared to last year, while becoming more efficient at picking up drifting migrants at sea. .
Greece has denied claims by Turkey and non-governmental organizations that it is pushing back migrants, putting lives at risk, especially of those still crossing by sea from the Turkish coast.
(Associated Press material was used in this report)
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