Turkey and Greece discuss migration and security issues in Ankara

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Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis met in the capital Ankara on Tuesday as the issue of irregular migration continues to stoke tensions between neighbours.

The two ministers and accompanying delegations met behind closed doors to discuss migration, counter-terrorism and security issues, sources told Anadolu Agency (AA).

The two NATO allies disagree on a number of issues, including competing claims over jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, airspace, energy, the ethnically divided island of Cyprus and the status of the islands of the Aegean Sea.

More recently, Mitarakis claimed that Turkey was not respecting the terms of a pact signed with Brussels in 2016. The Greek minister had also said that the Aegean Sea must be cleared of refugee boats and smugglers.

Turkey, on the other hand, has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values ​​and international law by putting the lives of vulnerable migrants at risk, including women and children.

Turkey’s five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are favorite locations for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with the Greek islands within sight of the Turkish coast.

In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean with the aim of reaching northern and western Europe in search of a better life.

Hundreds of people died at sea when several boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coastguard Command rescued thousands more.

Turkey on Tuesday rescued some 256 asylum seekers illegally returned to Turkish waters by Greece.

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants wishing to enter Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start a new life. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary expulsions without migrants having access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. He also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this flagrant violation of human rights.

Yet recently EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the EU expects Greece to investigate reports of pushbacks of illegal migrants at its border.

“There seems to be, in (this) case, a kind of orchestration of violence at our external borders, and there seems to be convincing evidence of misappropriation of (EU) funds,” Johansson said, making reference to the fact that the authorities of these countries have received significant financial support from the EU for the management of the external borders.

“This needs to be investigated,” she added.

Pushbacks are considered contrary to international agreements on the protection of refugees, which state that people should not be deported or sent back to a country where their life and safety could be at risk because of their race, religion, their nationality or their membership of a social or political group.

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