Turkey Starts Stopping Migrant Boats, Greek Leader Styles EU-Turkish Deal ‘Dead’
Over 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Greek islands in the Aegean from Turkey over the past week.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan has ordered the country’s coastguard to stop boats with migrants from reaching the Greek islands in the Aegean, while Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared the EU – Turkey deal on migrants was “dead”.
“On the orders of the president… permission will not be given for migrants to cross the Aegean Sea because it is dangerous,” the Turkish coastguard tweeted on Saturday, as cited by the Hurriyet Daily News.
It made it clear that the reasoning behind Erdogan’s order was to prevent migrant deaths at sea, and Turkey’s new policy of allowing migrants and refugees to leave was untouched.
On February 28, Turkey’s authorities said they would let migrants cross its borders into Europe, arguing it could no longer contain the tens of thousands who were trying to cross, and could not handle a potential fresh influx of migrants due to intensified fighting in Northwest Syria.
This allowed thousands of migrants to amass at the Greek – Turkish border, with the Greek border police using force to prevent them from entering EU territory.
Meanwhile, over 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Greek islands in the Aegean from Turkey over the past week.
On Friday, the foreign ministers of the EU member states declared that the EU border was not open for migrants to come in, and that “illegal crossings will not be tolerated”.
They also refused to grant Ankara more funds as part of a potential revision of the 2016 migrant deal between the EU and Turkey, under which the latter has been stopping potential migrant flows to the latter.
With the shift in Turkish policy, the two began exchanging accusations as to who was failing to keep its commitments under the 2016 arrangement.
“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 Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Saturday in reaction to the statement of the EU Foreign Affairs Council
Earlier, speaking after the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated that the 2016 EU – Turkey migrant deal had collapsed.
“Right now, let’s be honest, the agreement is dead,” Mitsotakis told US broadcaster CNN in a live interview.
“And it’s dead because Turkey has decided to completely violate the agreement because of what happened in Syria,” he added.
“They have systematically assisted, both at land and at sea, people in their effort to cross into Greece. Europe is not going to be blackmailed over this problem by Turkey,” the Greek leader said.
Under the 2016 agreement, Turkey closed the so called “Balkan Route” of migrants into the EU, while the EU offered in exchange EUR 6 billion and trade and travel incentives.
On Friday, however, Turkish Prime Minister Ergodan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the EU-Turkey deal needed to be revised because the terms of the agreement were no longer effective, according to a statement from his office, cited by DW.
The Turkish leader is due to meet with the EU leadership in Brussels on Monday over the current situation and the migrant agreement
(Banner image: Turkish Coastguard on Twitter)