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Mitarakis expresses ‘surprise’ at UNHCR concerns

Mitarakis expresses ‘surprise’ at UNHCR concerns

Greece protects the EU’s external borders in full compliance with international law and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Human Rights, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Monday, in response to comments by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The High Commissioner had expressed concerns over “the increasing number of incidents of violence and serious human rights violations against refugees and migrants at various European borders,” including ill-treatment of migrants and pushbacks. In addition, he said the UN agency is “alarmed by recurrent and consistent reports coming from Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, where UNHCR has recorded almost 540 reported incidents of informal returns by Greece since the beginning of 2020.”

Mitarakis responded that the country’s “national independent authorities are investigating all claims about so-called violations, and we are actively asking for presentation of proof.”

In a statement, Mitarakis expressed “surprise” at Grandi’s statement, saying that “it’s deeply disturbing that Turkish propaganda and false news about illegal migration are taken so frequently and wrongly as fact.”

Turkey, he said, is not a country at war and is obligated by the EU-Turkey joint statement of 2016 to deter illegal departures of migrants and to accept the return of those who do not qualify for international protection.

“Greece is not against legal migration. We are against human traffickers and all those who take advantage of human pain for gain or political reasons,” he underlined.

“Fundamentally, Greece cannot resolve the migration crisis by itself; we urgently need more tangible support and greater commitment at EU level and by member states, especially on relocation. We would welcome a discussion on the issues the High Commissioner raised and a talk with him about the constructive role the international community can play in protecting the life of refugees,” Mitarakis noted. [AMNA]