Greece offers to send migrants directly back to Turkey via Aegean Sea

Greece offers to send migrants directly back to Turkey via Aegean Sea

ANKARA – The Associated Press
Greece offers to send migrants directly back to Turkey via Aegean Sea

AP photo

Greece’s defense minister has said he wants an agreement with neighboring Turkey that would allow the European Union’s Frontex border agency to stop and turn back - within Turkish waters - boats carrying migrants to the Greek islands.

Panos Kammenos said on Feb. 8 that he has already made the proposal to his EU colleagues, who “showed great interest,” and will raise the matter with NATO officials.

He said Greek authorities are in a position to locate smugglers boats as they leave the nearby Turkish coast, as well as alert Frontex and the Turkish coast guard. 

Kammenos said this would “stop the great migratory flow to Greece” and stop the deaths of migrants and refugees trying to reach Greece in rickety boats.

Greece has come under great criticism from fellow EU member states on the grounds of not taking the necessary measures to grapple with the biggest migration flow the continent has faced since World War II. 

Over one million refugees, mostly from Syria fleeing their country due to the almost five-year-long civil war, have flocked to the EU especially via Greece, sailing from the Turkish coasts of the Aegean Sea. 

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has said his country would not be able to handle the same number of migrants this year as it did in 2015 and it will help Western Balkan nations stop them at their borders.

Last year Austria received 90,000 asylum-seekers, which overstretched its capacities, Kurz said on Feb. 8 in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

“Macedonia is ready to accept the help of the European Union. This is unfortunately not happening in Greece,” Kurz said, insisting that the EU offered Greece support but it was rejected.

He said last summer that he warned the “welcoming culture in Europe was correct on a human level but it could encourage more people to head toward the continent, which is what happened.”

Kurz noted that it was wrong for Europe to watch migrants arriving in Greece and then let them be directed further to non-EU countries.