Greece say Turkey can no longer 'instrumentalize' migration

Minister reiterates stance on protecting Greece and EU borders

06 June, 20:24

    A soldier stands in front of a steel fence built along the Evros River in the area of Feres, at the Greek-Turkish border, Greece A soldier stands in front of a steel fence built along the Evros River in the area of Feres, at the Greek-Turkish border, Greece

    ATHENS - Greece insists that Turkey is not longer in a position to instrumentalize the migration issue due to the government's measures and policies that have been put in place, which have strengthened border security significantly.

    In the wake of a recent incident in the Aegean last month when Greece's coast guard thwarted the biggest "mass migration" attempt in over two years when it prevented approximately 600 people from entering the country by sea from Turkey, there have been calls against from Turkey that Greece is executing illegal migrant pushbacks.

    Tension has also increased with Turkey also calling for Greece to "demilitarize" some of its Aegean islands.

    Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis has responded, however, saying that Greece will stick to its policies.

    "The fact that Turkey can not use immigration as a bargaining chip against the European Union any longer is crucial for Greece," he said in a television interview with national channel Open TV.

    He added: "Our country, now, with a comprehensive policy - with the protection of the maritime borders, the closed and controlled structures, the tightening of legislation, and all that we have done - has managed to result in reducing the incoming flow of people to very low levels; for example, in Kos three years ago there were around 4,000 people, while now only 79 are living there now." "Unfortunately, there are some voices in Europe, mainly from the European Left, and not from countries opposed to border protection. On immigration, the division is not between states, but between ideologies. We must finally break away from ideological lines," said Mitarakis.

    When asked about the growing Turkish provocation, Mitarakis countered that "the Treaty of Lausanne does not provide for the demilitarization of our islands, on the contrary, it forbids the neighboring country to fly over", something which Turkey have been guilty of for decades, as pointed out by Mitarakis.

    "Turkey is the one that violates the Treaty of Lausanne and the issues of the Greek community that existed in its territory a decade ago, and they have received multiple punishments, but also in terms of the application of international law. Greece is clearly neither threatening anyone nor is threatened. Greece neither disputes something, nor is it disputed." Mitarakis concluded: "We do not expect further tension on the immigration front, but we are preparing so that if there is an event which is beyond expectations, it will not affect us, just as it did not affect us in March 2020 [when Turkey allowed thousands of migrants to try and get across the Northern land border]. Greece has strong allies and acts with sobriety and determination."

    In related developments, Greek authorities have confirmed that they are planning a major extension of a border wall along the country's border with Turkey, and they are seeking European Union financial support to cover the cost of the additional construction.

    Mitarakis said the steel wall would be extended from 40 to 120 kilometers (25 to 75 miles), with construction work due to start later this year. As yet there are no details on the projected cost of the project.

    In 2021, 12 countries, including Greece, requested EU funding for border walls which are currently financed by national budgets. The EU Commission does not currently pay for wall construction at its external borders, arguing that it would drain funds from other migration-related activities, including financing the EU border protection agency, Frontex.

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