A top European Union official called Thursday for heightened efforts to stop migrants traveling from Turkey to Greece as a renewed spike in people making it to Greece by boat has overflowed refugee reception centers.
EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos highlighted the trend before a meeting on migration policies in Turkey’s capital with the interior ministers of Turkey and Germany.
“Irregular arrivals to Greece increased over the past weeks and months,” Avramopoulos said. “There is an urgent need to further strengthen the prevention and detection of irregular departures from Turkey.”
The meeting in Ankara followed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying his country can’t shoulder hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees alone and could “open the gates” for migrants to head for Europe.
Avramopoulos praised the Turkish government, saying “Turkey’s continued engagement with the Greek authorities is indispensable.”
Erdogan has called for European support for plans to create a so-called “safe zone” in northeast Syria where Turkey hopes to resettle some 2 million of its Syrian refugees.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the country could get another 3 million refugees fleeing conflict in Syria’s last rebel stronghold of Idlib. Soylu said he would discuss the safe zone with the European officials.
Erdogan also frequently accuses the EU of not adhering to its 2016 deal with Turkey to stem the flow of people heading west by sea, including failing to provide promised funds to support the migrants.
“Turkey has fulfilled all of its obligations,” Soylu said. “It is our expectation that the EU adopt the same stance.” [AP]