The management of the ongoing influx of migrants from Turkey was the focus of a telephone conversation on Thursday between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim, with Ankara’s request for the extradition of eight Turkish military personnel also high on the agenda.
According to diplomatic sources, the two prime ministers agreed that an agreement struck between Ankara and the European Union in March has slowed the influx of migrants, with an average of 100 arriving on Greece’s Aegean islands daily compared to up to 7,000 daily this time last year.
Meanwhile, in view of Ankara’s insistence that Turkish citizens be granted visa-free travel in the EU by October at the latest in return for their continuing enforcement of the agreement, Athens is keen to ensure that a channel of communication remain open with Ankara over the coming weeks.
Greek officials are keen to stress that the returns of migrants foreseen under the Turkey-EU pact have not stopped, noting that eight Syrians were returned to Turkey on Wednesday and four Pakistanis and two Algerians on Thursday.
Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas is expected to visit Turkey in the coming weeks for talks with Turkish officials on the implementation of the migrant deal.
As regards the case of the eight Turkish military personnal who are seeking asylum in Greece, Tsipras told Yildirim that the matter is in the hands of the judiciary.
The first of the eight officers is to have an interview with Greek Asylum Service officials on Friday, with the rest to follow over the coming days.
A decision is not expected, however, for several weeks, maybe months, and if negative, the applicants can appeal, meaning the process is likely to be a long one.
Greek diplomatic sources said on Friday that Athens has received a request from Ankara for the return of the eight officers who fled to Greece in a helicopter after a failed coup in Turkey last month.
The request notes that the officers face charges of violating the Turkish Constitution and the attempted murder of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The officers have said they fear for their lives if they return to Turkey.