Diplomatic sources in Athens Monday ruled out the prospect of Greek and Turkish naval forces conducting joint patrols in the eastern Aegean in a bid to curb a dramatic influx of migrants and refugees.
Speaking to Kathimerini, the same sources from the Greek Foreign Ministry stated that no official European documents raise the issue of joint sea patrols – which was first reported in the German press ahead of the draft action plan signed last week between the European Union and Turkey on the support of refugees and migration management.
According to the plan, Turkey will “strengthen the interception capacity of the Turkish Coast Guard, notably by upgrading its surveillance equipment, increasing its patrolling activity and search and rescue capacity, and stepping up its cooperation with the Hellenic Coast Guard.”
In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper published Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel heralded closer cooperation between Greece, Turkey and EU border agency Frontex.
“In the Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey, both NATO members, traffickers do whatever they want,” she told the paper.
Diplomatic circles in Athens suggest that Ankara is tempted to use the refugee crisis as a tool for prompting additional EU aid, concessions on the issue of EU visas, or the creation of a buffer zone behind the Syrian border.
In a related development, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres criticized the EU’s newly launched relocation scheme, suggesting it lacks a human dimension.
“You cannot just look [at] people and say ‘You go to Germany, you go to Sweden, you go to Romania, you go to Portugal, you go to Spain’ without having a process of information of taking into account the interests, for instance family, links, preferences,” Portugal’s former prime minister said during a press conference in Athens at the end of a three-day visit to Greece.
Greek officials said Monday a total of 1,624 people had been rescued over the past three days as they tried to reach the country.