The members of the LIBE committee of the European Parliament that met today, Monday 27 June 2022, were addressed by the Minister of Immigration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarakis, following the acceptance of the relevant request by the President of the Commission, Mr. Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar.
Mr. Mitarakis had requested in his letter to provide detailed information on the Greek government’s painstaking efforts to deal with the ongoing immigration crisis, always in line with the EU acquis, while making extensive reference to the challenges posed by Turkey against to Greek sovereign rights, even with inflammatory, revisionist and legally unfounded statements about the status of the Aegean islands. “Greece is once again witnessing an increase in pressure on the land borders of Evros and the Aegean islands,” he said.
Regarding the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration, Mr. Mitarakis pointed out that: “If Turkey had implemented the part of its agreement with the EU, we would not have had this discussion today. Every ship that leaves Turkey illegally, endangers human lives, every day. “According to a significant number of testimonies from asylum seekers, the Turkish authorities are actively encouraging illegal departures.”
In addition, Mr. Mitarakis added: “Greece would expect an even more active role of the EU institutions, calling on Turkey to abide by its commitments under the 2016 Joint Declaration and to fully implement its provisions, namely to prevent departures.” , stopping the push forward, and accepting returns of those who are not entitled to protection. ”
At the same time, Mr. Mitarakis made extensive reference to the challenges of Turkey, against the sovereign rights of Greece, saying: “We also face inflammatory, revisionist and legally unfounded statements regarding the status of the Aegean islands.” These threats clearly violate international law and raise real and immediate border security concerns. “Despite these difficulties, for the last three years, in cooperation with the Commission, we have been working to substantially improve the situation.”
More specifically about the situation in Evros in recent months, Mr. Mitarakis explained that “smuggling networks have devised a new method of circumventing border controls and manipulating the European asylum and justice system.” The smugglers leave groups of migrants on islets created by the seasonal low flow of the river Evros. They then alert specific NGOs that specialize in facilitating border crossings. These NGOs in turn warn the Greek authorities that they are in danger, and also file a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. With the latter reacting by suggesting temporary measures, which of course do not prejudge the substance of any case. ”
Concluding his speech, the Minister of Immigration and Asylum clarified that: “Greece protects the EU’s external borders and thwarts illegal attempts to enter EU territory. But it does so with full respect for fundamental rights and above all right to life. “And we have improved our regulatory framework through greater involvement of independent monitoring mechanisms to ensure that any allegations are properly investigated.”
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