German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Monday on the need for continued cooperation between the European Union and Turkish authorities to curb irregular immigration while Greek authorities said they were preparing to evacuate a large makeshift refugee camp near the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Merkel met Erdogan on the sidelines of a humanitarian summit in Istanbul where Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also met both leaders separately. In his meeting with Erdogan, Tsipras expressed his satisfaction with Turkey’s enforcement of its side of a deal with the European Union to curb migration, referring to reduced migrant arrivals in Greece.
Back in Athens, the government’s coordinator for the refugee crisis, Giorgos Kyritsis, said police would start moving refugees from the Idomeni camp Tuesday or Wednesday. The evacuation will be carried out gradually over about 10 days, Kyritsis said, adding that officers have been instructed to avoid the use of violence. Nine riot police units were dispatched to the scene last night so they can intervene if attempts to move the migrants cause protests.
There are some 8,400 refugees living in the makeshift camp near the border village of Idomeni. Over the past week, some 200 to 300 refugees have been leaving the camp voluntarily every day after authorities stepped up an awareness campaign about better conditions at state-run facilities near Thessaloniki.
The migrants are to be moved in groups to state-run facilities near Thessaloniki.
Hundreds of migrants have lodged claims for asylum in Greece and dozens of those applications have been rejected. However, in three cases, appeals against rejections have been upheld by legal committees, a trend that has fueled fears that the EU-Turkey agreement may be undermined.