German Interior Minister de Maiziere has said Europe must focus on reducing the number of migrants arriving on the continent. He has called for faster deportations of ineligible asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey.
Speaking during a meeting with his Greek counterpart Panayotis Kouroublis in Athens on Friday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the "return of migrants who are ineligible to receive refugee protection should be intensified."
The German minister called for improved cooperation with Turkey regarding border management and the fight against traffickers. He also said the refugee crisis posed an "enormous challenge for Europe."
"The aim is not only to register all newcomers and then distribute them in the EU," de Maiziere said. "The aim is mainly to limit the influx of refugees to Europe."
He added that "quick shared solutions are necessary," if the Schengen visa-free travel zone is to be kept out of danger.
De Maiziere's comments came just a day after he pledged more German support to Greece in protecting the EU's external borders. On March 1, two German police boats will be sent to the Aegean Sea, which will gradually be joined by up to 100 officers. To date, almost 50 police officers have been deployed in Greece as part of an operation by the European border management agency, Frontex.
De Maiziere said, however, that other EU nations should also contribute more to Frontex and help strengthen Greece's borders and coastlines.
"The notion of solidarity [in the EU] should not be based on the extent to which each member state is affected by the crisis," he said.
Turkey must uphold agreement
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also urged Turkey on Friday to implement the terms of its agreement with Europe over the refugee crisis.
"It's now important that Turkey fulfills its obligation, i.e., opening the jobs market to refugees, and ensuring that the Turkish borders are effectively controlled," Steinmeier said at an EU ministerial meeting in Amsterdam.
In return for Ankara's support housing and protecting refugees in Turkey, the EU has pledged 3 billion euros to Turkey in monetary aid.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to discuss Turkey's necessary obligations with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday in Ankara.
ksb/sms (AFP, dpa)