Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Turkey ‘must take back migrants’ to uphold EU deal

Turkey ‘must take back migrants’ to uphold EU deal

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi speaks during an interview in his office of the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum in Athens on Tuesday. AFP

Turkey ‘must take back migrants’ to uphold EU deal

Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi has called on Turkey to take back 1,450 migrants to demonstrate “willingness to cooperate” with the EU on a 2016 deal stemming would-be refugee flows.

“We have proposed to Turkey to restart [the] returns of those not entitled to protection,” Mitarachi told AFP in an interview, in which he also insisted his country does not illegally push back migrants.

“I think it’s a very good opportunity for Turkey to demonstrate their willingness to cooperate with the EU and uphold the joint statement,” the minister said.

The accord – criticised by rights groups and since seen as inadequate by Ankara – foresaw the payment of €6 billion ($7.2 billion) to Turkey to keep asylum seekers from crossing to Bulgaria and Greece.

According to the European Commission, €4.1 billion have already been delivered to Turkey, and the remaining two billion have been contracted to projects to support refugees.

But Ankara disputes the EU figures, claiming that only €3.6 billion have been spent on Syrians, and stressing that Turkey has 3.7 million of them on its soil.

Since the accord, the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece has fallen sharply.

In 2015, at the height of the crisis, 856,000 crossed the Aegean Sea. This figure dropped to 173,000 the following year, and to only 30,000 in 2017.

Last year, likely because of the coronavirus pandemic, just 10,000 crossed.

EU member states will discuss ties with Turkey at their next summit on March 25 and 26.

‘Prevented’ entry of boats

Asked about persistent allegations of migrant pushbacks in Greek waters, Mitarachi said Greece is protecting its borders “in accordance to European regulations and international law”.

He said: “We haven’t returned boats. We have prevented boats from entering European and Greek territory, but this is something allowed by the regulations.”

Pushbacks prevent asylum-seekers from making refugee claims and if practised indiscriminately can constitute a violation of core EU human rights laws and the 1951 Geneva Convention.

The chief of EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, has been under pressure for weeks over the allegations, but a recent investigation proved inconclusive.

It said no migrants were turned back in eight of the incidents examined, but added that it was not possible to clarify the details of five other instances of alleged rights violations.

Five-nation meeting

Greece on March 19 will host a two-day meeting with Cyprus, Italy, Malta and Spain to hammer out common proposals on the EU’s new migration pact.

And Mitarachi later in March will accompany EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson to the island of Lesbos, which is housing over 8,500 asylum seekers.

Most of them live in a temporary tent camp hastily erected after the notorious facility of Moria burned down last year.


  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a