The Greek government accused Turkey on Tuesday of encouraging Somali migration through visa offers, urging Ankara to stop “coordinated” illegal migrant arrivals into Europe.
More than half of the 214 migrants who crossed from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos since November 1 were from Somalia, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told reporters. Currently, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 migrants on the Turkish west coast, he said.
Somalians obtained student or healthcare visas for Turkey, where criminal gangs helped them to cross into Greece, Mitarachi claimed. “These people are essentially arriving legally in Turkey, for the express purpose of illegal trafficking into Europe.”
The issue is not about geopolitics, but about illegal trafficking of people into the European Union, the minister noted. “We are simply asking Turkey to uphold its obligation by helping us to proactively manage, and limit, illegal migration.”
After hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees flowed into Europe in 2015 and 2016, the EU and Ankara clinched a deal to restrict the influx. However, they have repeatedly accused each other of not meeting their respective commitments under the deal.
In February and March this year, Greek police clashed with migrants at the border with Turkey, and Athens accused Ankara of opening its gates to put pressure on the EU.
Mitarachi said that his ministry has “confirmed information” that nongovernmental organizations helped Somali asylum seekers travel to Turkey and arrange their crossing to Greece via migrant smuggling networks.
The minister also claimed that the Turkish coastguard was to blame for the death of two women last week, after it allegedly forced their boat – which was sending distress signals – into Greek waters.
Turkey, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that it had rescued at least 69 people whose boats were pushed back by the Greek coastguard into Turkish waters in the Aegean Sea.
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