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Greek Minister of Migration writes to the European Commission & UNHCR regarding illegal crossings from Turkey and recent loss of lives near Lesvos.

The Minister of Migration & Asylum Notis Mitarachi, sent today letters detailing the circumstances of the recent Lesvos shipwreck, where the Hellenic Coast Guard rescued 32 passengers but unfortunately two women lost their lives. The letters were addressed to the European Commissioner Ms Ylva Johansson, and the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece, Mr. Phillipe Leclerc.

Based on testimonies, the passengers did not want to continue their journey due to harsh weather conditions. When they asked the Turkish Coast Guard for immediate help (while in Turkish territorial waters) they received none. Instead the Turkish Coast Guard boat, maneuvered in such a way as to create waves that forced the boat towards the Greek Coast. Only when the boat was in Greek territorial waters, the Turkish Coast Guard informed the Greek authorities.

Loss of life could have been avoided if the Turkish authorities had intervened right when the migrant boat called for help (i.e. in Turkish waters).

And as required by the EU-Turkey Joint Statement, Turkey should prevent illegal crossings for the European borders. The letter asks the Commission and UNHCR to intervene so that Turkey stops trafficking networks.

Finally, Notis Mitarachi expressed Greece's concern about cases where, Non-Governmental Organizations (operating in the region), inadvertently enabling smugglers' continuing illegal crossings.

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