Members of the Turkish Coast Guard take migrants, who were allegedly pushed back from the Greece side, on a boat during a patrol to search and rescue for migrants offshore the Ayvalik district in Balikesir, Turkey | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/ERDEM SAHIN
Members of the Turkish Coast Guard take migrants, who were allegedly pushed back from the Greece side, on a boat during a patrol to search and rescue for migrants offshore the Ayvalik district in Balikesir, Turkey | Photo: ARCHIVE/EPA/ERDEM SAHIN

Greece's Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi says that Athens is ready to stop Turkey sending any "refugee caravans" from their neighboring country into Greece as tensions continue between the two nations over migration issues.

Relations between regional rivals Greece and Turkey are at a low point politically, with Turkey continuously accusing Greek authorities of illegally turning back migrants who have made it over to the Greek side, without allowing them to apply for asylum, while Athens in turn routinely accuses Ankara of encouraging migrants to cross illegally into Greek territory.

Only last month, a group of 38 migrants was found on an islet in the Evros after several days of reports that they were being pushed from one side of the border to the other.

Greek authorities have already delivered information they have labeled as "evidence" to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court that was received from the secret services about alleged "third party involvement" in the Evros case.

Mitarachi, 'effort by Turkey to instigate and exploit immigration'

"There is an effort in Turkey to instigate and instrumentalize immigration while at the same time the Turks are trying to expel immigrants because of their own economic problems they are experiencing," Mitarachi told SKAI radio.

"Regarding a 'refugee caravan' that according to the Turkish media will be heading towards European territories, I have contacted the European Union and the competent Commissioner for Migration, I have informed the UN High Commissioner, the International Organization for Migration, and the competent committee of the European Parliament, while Frontex, which cooperates with the Greek Police on the issue of borders, is also fully informed."

He added: "So far this refugee caravan has not started to form, and so far the effort of some on social media has not been proven to have created a climate of mobilization like it did back in March 2020."

'Brutal and immoral weaponization' of undocumented migrants --Theodorikakos

Mitarachi's comments come just four days after Greek Citizens' Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos also claimed that Turkey were engaging in what he called a "brutal and immoral weaponization" of undocumented migrants.

Theodorikakos, speaking on September 10, said that in Augustalone, 40,000 irregular migrants attempted to cross into Greece at the northern Evros border, and since the beginning of the year this number has reached 150,000.

"Our message is that no one crosses Evros illegally; we will not allow it," he stressed. "The border is guarded 24 hours a day in a determined manner by the police and the army, and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan must take this into account," he said.

There is no doubt that the flow of thousands of migrants is being driven by the Turkish side, he added, predicting that this will continue "in order to blackmail Europe and Greece." Theodorikakos pointed out that Greece is implementing the so-called "Akritas" plan to protect the border at Evros, adding that the Europeans should assist this effort.

 

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