Turkey records huge drop in Aegean Sea refugee crossings to Greece in January
IZMIRThe number of refugees caught crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece fell by 86 percent month-on-month in January, data from the Turkish Coast Guard said on Feb. 1.
The data reflects the success of the EU-Turkey deal that came into effect in March 2016 to reduce illegal migration and clamp down on human trafficking.
According to the Coast Guard command, 756 people were intercepted in January compared to 5,506 in the same month last year. Last month’s figure was the second-lowest number of people intercepted in the Aegean in two years.
During January 2016, 103 people drowned while attempting to reach Greece. Last month there were no recorded fatalities.
Tens of thousands in recent years have attempted the short but dangerous journey across the Aegean before heading to northern and western Europe. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated there were more than 363,000 arrivals in Europe by sea last year.
Under a deal with the EU, Turkey has stepped up efforts to prevent illegal migrants from reaching EU member Greece and has agreed to take back those who land in Greece in return for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Europe.
Greece and Turkey are currently in the midst of a fresh row after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Jan. 27 said that Ankara would take “necessary steps” against Athens after a Greek court ruled not to extradite Turkish soldiers accused of involvement in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
“There is a migration deal we signed, including a readmission deal with Greece, and we are evaluating what we can do, including the cancellation of the readmission deal with Greece,” he said in an interview with state-run TRT Haber.