Immigration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Tuesday criticized Turkey for failing to take any serious measures to cut the flow of migrants into Europe as Brussels called on Greece to complete construction of five “hot spots” on its territory.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Mouzalas said Ankara’s failure to clamp down on human traffickers put an excess burden on the country’s shoulders.
“Smuggling networks are still in full operation… The deportation of migrants who have traveled from Turkey is also a big problem,” Mouzalas said.
Greek authorities had carried out 130 deportations in the past 15 days, he said, while some 30,000 people had arrived from Turkey over the same period.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed Tuesday that 31,244 migrants and refugees had arrived in Greece by sea since the beginning of 2016, compared with just 1,472 recorded arrivals in January last year.
Meanwhile the Greek minister rebuffed criticism that his government had turned down EU help to deal with the crisis. He said that although Athens had officially requested 1,800 staff from EU border agency Frontex, only 900 were dispatched to Greece.
Mouzalas did acknowledge delays in completing the five hot spots for registering and processing migrants and refugees on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Leros, Kos and Chios.
Speaking to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Greece – and Italy – must set up hot spots within the next four weeks.
“We have no more than four weeks in order to achieve results at the borders,” Avramopoulos said.
In a related development, Shipping Minister Theodoris Dritsas denounced coast guards who forced an alleged Turkish smuggler to look at the bodies of three migrant children who died crossing the Aegean.
“Clearly this is exaggerated behavior,” he said in a statement late on Monday.
“The state and its officials should be cool-headed and professional vis-a-vis any detainee, even one accused of heinous crimes,” Dritsas said.
The affair surfaced after Britain’s Sky News on Friday broadcast footage of a distressing migrant rescue near Samos where two 2-year-old boys and a 4-year-old girl died.