Greek PM issues terse response to Turkey over refugee pushback claims

Ankara should be “more cautious when referring to Greece,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday, following claims from the Turkish Foreign Ministry over the weekend that Greek authorities have pushed back tens of thousands of migrants trying to cross the Aegean Sea into Europe this year.

“Those who magnified the refugee crisis, using the persecuted as pawns in forwarding their own geopolitical goals, should be more cautious when referring to Greece,” Mitsotakis told the fourth European Union-Arab World Summit, taking place in Athens, on Tuesday.

The migration crisis, said Mitsotakis, is an international challenge that cannot be addressed when countries, like Turkey, “dispute the facts of decades and make unacceptable demands.”

The inflow of migrants and refugees to Greece is “asymmetrical” in relation to the country’s size and population, Mitsotakis said.

“We control our borders and always take in the hunted of this world. But one country alone cannot carry the problems of three continents on its shoulders,” the Greek prime minister said, addressing heads of state and officials from more than a dozen countries, including Syria, Iraq and Algeria.

“The only way to respond to this great challenge of the 21st century is in a coordinated manner, with due process and cooperation. We need better coordination between the Europeans and the Arabs in order to manage the causes of migration,” he added, calling for more action to support for the countries where the bulk of refugees and migrants originate from and to crack down on migrant smuggling networks.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said that Greece pushed back 25,404 irregular migrants to Turkey in the first 10 months of the year.

“The fact that Greek authorities deny pushbacks contrary to international law as determined by our relevant departments and the Council of Europe does not change the reality in the field,” the ministry was quoted by Turkey’s Daily Sabah as saying.

“We invite the new Greek government to work to correct this policy, which is contrary to international law, rather than to deny the pushback cases identified by the Council of Europe, which has all the information and documents that we have,” the ministry was quoted as saying.