Frontex report implicates Turks

Photographs taken from a Latvian helicopter participating in Frontex patrols over the Aegean and published yesterday in Kathimerini, show Turkish coast guard officials failing to obstruct a smuggling vessel from leaving the Turkish coast, an apparent vindication of Greek claims that Turkish authorities are not cooperating in the fight to curb illegal immigration. The photos, submitted to the European Commission along with a written report by the helicopter pilots, also appear to show a Turkish coast guard vessel escorting a smuggling boat into Greek national waters off the tiny islet of Farmakonisi. An extract from the report by the Latvian Frontex pilots reads as follows: «We have to mention… at 8.01 [a.m.] a suspicious target detected in Greek territorial waters moving to the east… At 8.02, the suspicious target has been recognized as a Turkish Coast Guard vessel.» The photographs were submitted to the EC by the Latvian pilots on September 14, when their Frontex aircraft was harassed by Turkish radar several times. The pilots said they received a series of emergency signals via Turkish radar, warning that their aircraft had entered Turkish air space. The signals had been sent while the aircraft was flying over the Aegean islet of Farmakonisi, according to the Frontex pilots, who said they ignored these signals and continued their patrol duties. Last week, the EC issued a statement – which was rather too balanced for the liking of Greek diplomats – noting that the Frontex helicopter had «never violated Turkish air space» but also added that the aircraft «had never received threats from Turkish authorities.» In a related development, the French government is said to have submitted a proposal to the EU’s Council of Justice and Internal Affairs Ministers, calling for Turkey and Libya to cooperate with EU member states in the drive to curb illegal immigration. The proposal reportedly calls on the EU to provide the two countries with a «decisive reminder» of their obligations.