Greece warned on 'violent deportations' of migrants by EU

Recent increase in incidents in the Aegean reignites debate

01 luglio, 14:22

(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, 01 LUG - Greece was on Thursday warned by the European Union's top migration official to stop "violent" deportations of migrants from the country, or risk of losing funds.

Following a recent rapid rise in incidents in the Aegean Sea with the Greek Coast Guard having to reduce hundreds of asylum seekers attempting to enter the country on boats from the Turkish coast, the Greek government have come under the spotlight again with accusations of so-called pushbacks involving migrants coming to the fore.

Over the course of three days last weekend alone, the Greek Coast Guard said they were called to intercept 24 incidents, most of them off the coast of Lesbos.

Those incidents involved over 1,000 migrants in total who had boarded inflatable boats on Turkish shores and tried to get into Greek territorial waters in the direction of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Rhodes.

Greece continues to be one of the main destination points for refugees and migrants since the migration crisis erupted in 2015. Athens has hardened its policy in the past three years since the centre-right party New Democracy came to power by increasing security measures, such as land and sea patrols, extending border fences, and building new closed and controlled camps on the Aegean islands.

The Greek government have often been locked in a war or words with Turkey, repeatedly denying accusations of carrying out pushbacks of asylum-seekers, insisting that they intercepts boats at sea to protect their own and the European Union's borders.

"Today I met with Ministers of Greek Government to discuss external border management, migration and fundamental rights; protecting EU external border from illegal entry is an obligation. Violent and illegal deportations of migrants must stop now," said Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson after emerging from her discussions.

Although Johansson did not give any specific details about the new system, and Greek officials have yet to comment, she clearly stated that "Funding is linked to EU fundamental rights being correctly applied".

Greece's Minister for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, said last month that the government will not allow the illegal entry of migrants by land or by sea, after an increase in attempted entries through its Aegean islands and the land border with Turkey.

In an address to EU lawmakers earlier this week on Monday, Mitarakis said the EU needed to do more to ensure boats were not crossing over from Turkey.

"Greece would expect an even more active role of EU institutions, in calling Turkey to abide by its commitments under the 2016 Joint Statement and fully implement its provisions, namely preventing departures, stopping push-forwards, and accepting returns of those not eligible for protection," said Mitarakis.

He also referred to recent Turkish political provocations, saying: "We are facing several provocations by Turkey against our sovereign rights, not least inflammatory, revisionist and legally unfounded statements concerning the status of the Aegean islands" But "despite these difficulties, over the past three years, in cooperation with the [European] Commission, we have worked towards substantially improving the situation on the ground.'' Around 47,000 people arrived by sea to Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta so far this year, according to the latest figures released by the UN refugee agency UNHCR. The Mediterranean countries expect over 150,000 arrivals this year as food shortages caused by the Ukraine conflict threaten increased arrivals from Africa and the Middle East.

Mitarakis reiterated that Greece sees its role as one of a frontline protector of the EU's borders, but also was at pains to point out that all of its actions related to migrants are down within the boundaries of the law. (ANSAmed).

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