Greece seeks to send 1,450 migrants back to Turkey – minister

Refugees and migrants make their way in the Kara Tepe camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, October 14, 2020. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Greece is pushing to return 1,450 migrants to Turkey, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Thursday, calling on Ankara to respect asylum deals with the European Union.

Mitarachi said Greece had submitted a request to the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex for the immediate return of the migrants, according to Reuters.

The minister said the migrants who had arrived from Turkey and whose asylum applications had been rejected.

Under an EU-Turkey 2016 pact that sharply stemmed the flow of migrants to Europe, Ankara had undertaken to take back migrants not entitled to international protection, in return for billions of euros in aid, AFP reported.

“Europe needs to establish a common mechanism to address this issue within the new Migration and Asylum Pact, as well as implementing the necessary legal and operation mechanism for achieving returns,” Mitarachi said in a statement.

The Greek migration ministry said among asylum claimants whose applications had been “conclusively” rejected on appeals, 995 are in Lesbos, 180 in Chios, 128 in Samos and 187 in Kos, according to AFP.

The move comes ahead of a planned resumption of talks to resolve longstanding territorial disputes between Greece and Turkey following months of tensions between the two NATO allies in the Aegean.

“We expect Turkey to step up its efforts … First, to prevent the passage of boats departing from its shores bound for our country and European Union. And second to accept the return of migrants,” Mitarachi said.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees used Greece as their entry point to Europe through Turkey in 2015 and 2016, until the deal between Ankara and the EU reduced the flow across the Greek and Turkish land and sea borders.

Turkey hosts more than three million refugees and migrants, many from neighboring Syria, while tens of thousands are waiting in Greece for asylum applications to be processed, mostly in camps where conditions have been described as dire.

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