Greece’s migration minister on Tuesday accused unnamed nongovernmental organizations of facilitating the illegal crossing of dozens of undocumented Somali migrants from Turkey into Greece.
Speaking to foreign correspondents in Athens, Notis Mitarakis said that the ministry has “witness testimony and confirmed information” that NGOs were helping Somali asylum seekers travel to Turkey and from there helped arrange their crossing to Greece via migrant smuggling networks.
“NGOs pat for the cost of travel and the issuance of a Visa to Turkey, with flights to Istanbul. Then [the migrants] are transported to the Turkish coast, where migrant smugglers, again with NGO support, help them enter the European Union illegally,” Mitarakis said, without providing additional details.
“These crossing must be prevented by any legal means. We do not want our country to become a gateway to Europe,” he said.
Mitarakis said that since November 1, the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos has seen 214 new arrivals, of which 142 are nationals of Somalia, in eastern Africa.
He also accused Turkey of failing to live up to its end of the 2016 migration deal with the European Union by cracking down on migrant smuggling networks, preventing the departure of smuggling boats from its shores and accepting returns.
Mitarakis also indicated that the Turkish coast guard was to blame for the death of two women off the coast of Lesvos last week, for failing to provide assistance when the boat they were in issued a distress signal and forcing it into Greek waters.