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EU-Turkey migration deal 'dead,' Greek PM says

March 7, 2020

A deal to stop irregular migrants from entering the EU through Turkey has collapsed, according to Greece's prime minister. Tens of thousands of migrants hoping to enter the EU have gathered at the Greek-Turkish border.

Migrants walk on the road near the Ipsala border gate in Edirne, at the Turkish-Greek border
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Gurel

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday said a landmark EU-Turkey agreement to curb irregular migration to the bloc had effectively collapsed.

"Right now, let's be honest, the agreement is dead," Mitsotakis told US broadcaster CNN. "And it's dead because Turkey has decided to completely violate the agreement because of what happened in Syria."

Tensions have risen at the Greek-Turkish land border after tens of thousands of migrants gathered there in the hopes of crossing into the EU. But European officials have accused Turkey of enabling people's attempts to cross the border illegally.

"They have systematically assisted, both at land and at sea, people in their effort to cross into Greece," said Mitsotakis. "Europe is not going to be blackmailed over this problem by Turkey."

Read more: 'We have no other choice': Afghans stranded at Greece's gates

Earlier on Friday, EU foreign minister met to express their "full solidarity with Greece," saying the country faces "an unprecedented situation."

"The situation at the EU external border is not acceptable. The EU and its Member States remain determined to effectively protect the EU's external borders. Illegal crossings will not be tolerated," said the Foreign Affairs Council in a statement released after the meeting.

Turkey requests new deal

In 2016, the EU made a deal with Turkey that effectively closed the so-called Balkan route, once considered the main pathway for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war in Syria.

In exchange for keeping people from crossing into Greece, the EU offered Turkey €6 billion ($6.8 billion) along with trade and travel incentives as part of the deal.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that the EU-Turkey deal needed to be revised because the terms of the agreement were no longer effective, according to a statement from his office.

Read more: Are Germany and the EU prepared for a new influx of refugees?

Map showing routes used by migrants to reach the EU

Coastguard intervenes

Shortly after Erdogan's statement, the Turkish coast guard said they were instructed to prevent migrants from attempting to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece, citing unsafe conditions.

"While the principle of not intervening with the illegal migrants wanting to leave Turkey remains to be implemented, such an approach does not cover sea crossings due to life-threatening danger," the coast guard said, citing a Turkish presidential order.

Meanwhile, at the land border, journalists were purportedly prevented from approaching the area where migrants have congregated at the Greek-Turkish land border, according to DW correspondent Julia Hahn.

"There are some reports suggested that the [Turkish] soldiers there are encouraging the refugees or migrants maybe to use violence to demand passage to Europe," Hahn said. "The people we talked to also told us that although they have some access to food and drinks, the temperatures here are particularly difficult."

"The also told us that there are still thousands there waiting to cross into the European Union."

Read more: Opinion: Europe has lost its soul at the border

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ls/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)