Greece says Turkey turning blind eye to refugee smugglers

Greece says Turkey turning blind eye to refugee smugglers

Greece’s migration minister on Friday said refugee smuggling in Turkey was conducted in "broad daylight" as he called on the EU to step up relocation plans.

"The entries (from Turkey) are happening in an organized fashion," junior interior minister for migration Yiannis Mouzalas told a news conference.

"It is happening in broad daylight, with villages gathering around to watch the refugees being put in boats by the traffickers. There is no secrecy in this," he said, citing evidence from Turkish media and the Greek coastguard.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will travel to Turkey next week to press the country’s leaders to take a stronger stance against refugee traffickers.

Turkey "is spending a lot of money, it is holding three million refugees on its soil, but we believe it has the ability and it must acquire the will to stop the flows from its coasts," Mouzalas said.

Greece has been overwhelmed this year by a migration crisis unseen in Europe since the Second World War.

The United Nations on Friday said over 800,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with over 3,400 dying in the attempt.

EU states put together a scheme to share out some 160,000 people inside the bloc, but fewer than 2,000 relocation places have been found so far.

And the program is already threatened by undue inflexibility, Mouzalas said.

"One EU country said it was prepared to accept 12 people. We wanted to send 14 as they were a family, and the country did not accept the extra two. Such cancellations could cancel out the substance of relocation," he said.

Greece has pledged to find accommodation for 20,000 refugees by January. Another 20,000 will be temporarily housed in rented flats under a UN scheme, Mouzalas said.

And registration centres on Greek islands created with EU funds, known as hotspots, will provide short-term accommodation for over 6,500 people, he said.

"If (registration) procedures go smoothly people will stay 48-72 hours" before moving to the mainland, the minister said. [AFP]

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