Turkey to stop migrants from risky sea crossings
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the Turkish coastguard to stop migrants from making risky Aegean Sea crossings.
Thousands of migrants have massed on the land border with Greece after officials said last week that Turkey would not prevent migrants from leaving for EU territory, sparking violence and an escalating row between Ankara and Brussels.
The Turkish coastguard tweeted that “on the orders of the president... permission will not be given for migrants to cross the Aegean Sea because it is dangerous.”
It said, however, Turkey’s policy of allowing migrants and refugees to leave was untouched, and the instruction only affected sea crossings.
Over 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands from Turkey over the past week.
Turkey and the European Union have traded accusations, with Ankara telling Brussels to implement a 2016 migration deal, and the bloc claiming Ankara was using the migrants as political pawns.
The EU should keep its promises and not make charges against Turkey, the Foreign Ministry said in response to a statement by a EU agency.
“Instead of accusing Turkey, the EU should first keep its promises, apply itself to the March 18 [2016 EU-Turkey refugee] Agreement as a whole,” the ministry said, referring to a statement from an extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Council that focused on the Idlib, Syria crisis and asylum seekers at the Turkey-Greece border.
Ankara has repeatedly complained that Europe has failed to keep its promises under the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal to help migrants and stem further migrant waves.
“It clearly shows that the European Union still cannot grasp the extraordinary burden and efforts that our country faces in migration and security issues,” it said in the statement that underlined that Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world with the best intentions.
“To accuse a country of using immigration for a political purpose is a new indicator of the hypocritical approach we have been exposed to for years” and the EU essentially makes the issue “political material.”
“It is also exemplary for the EU to back up Greece, which violates international law and human rights and deems proper all kinds of torture to innocent people who come to its borders, contradicting its principles and values,” it said.
The ministry said the EU Foreign Affairs Council refuses to call people who demand international protection and come by their free will to the borders of other safe countries, the EU countries, as asylum seekers, and uses the term “migrant” for these individuals.
“It is not possible to ignore the 1951 Geneva Convention and EU legislation with a play on words,” it said and stressed EU countries, including Greece, are obliged to receive applications from asylum seekers by respecting international obligations.
The statement went on to say that with the support from the EU, Greece ignored the international law and EU laws by announcing it suspending asylum applications.