Participation of the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, in the 4th Ministerial Meeting of the MED5 group held in Paphos.
The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, participated in the 4th Ministerial Meeting of the Ministers of Interior and Migration of the MED5 group (Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta, Cyprus), held in Paphos.
The aim of the meeting was the optimal coordination of the positions of the group of five front-line EU member states for the new European Pact on Migration and Asylum.
As Mr. Mitarachi clarified in his statement, Türkiye must keep its commitment to prevent illegal departures and the opening of new routes in order to preserve human lives. In this context, he pointed out that a new way of crossing from Türkiye to Greece has been identified, with migrants be pushed to the islets of Evros in order to cross into Greek territory.
He also noted "there is a sea route from Türkiye directly to Italy, with smugglers using larger vessels, such as sailboats and fishing boats." At this point, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum made it clear that with these practices there is a great risk of loss of life and referred to the recent shipwreck with 95 migrants in a boat that crashed into rocks in Kythira.
The Hellenic Coast Guard immediately carried out a search and rescue operation despite the adverse weather conditions. There must be pressure at EU level on Türkiye to prevent illegal departures from Türkiye , otherwise the loss of life will continue." In his speech, the Minister of Migration and Asylum emphasized the necessity of redrafting the 2016 Joint Declaration between the European Union and Turkey, as the latter not only does not abide by what was agreed, but does not control migration flows to Europe.As he noted.
At the same time, Mr. Mitarachi welcomed the efforts of the Czech Presidency for unity on the migration issue, adding that "without unity we cannot move forward".
The statement of the Minister of Μigration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, in detail:
""Dear colleagues,In 2020 together, we established the systematic cooperation of the MED5, the countries that face daily the intense effects of the European Migration crisis.
I want to thank the Minister of the Interior of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Nouri, for the successful organization of the 4th Meeting in a row, which highlights the importance we attach to the issues of migration, to the creation of a common front for the management of this thorny issue. The Meeting was a first-class opportunity to coordinate our national positions, ahead of the Council of Ministers taking place next week in Luxembourg.
The central axis of the discussion was the latest developments on the front of the negotiation on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
The common position of the Mediterranean countries is clear. The successful conclusion of the negotiation depends on achieving a balance between the management responsibility shouldered by the first host states and the necessary solidarity shown by the remaining member states of the European Union. A migration management system is only functional if it ensures a fair and direct distribution of the burden of managing refugee flows.
We communicated to the Czech Republic, Greece's position regarding the need to create a mandatory and legally binding relocation mechanism. I would also like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior of the Czech Republic for his participation in the Meeting, and his sincere interest in the positions of the Mediterranean countries.
However, alongside solidarity, the security of the European Union's external borders must also be ensured. Tükiye's attempt to instrumentalize the migration issue and its refusal to honor the commitments arising from the European Union - Türkiye Joint Declaration in 2016 causes us concern and concern. After all, we are challenged by her incendiary and revisionist rhetoric.
The time has come for the European Union to collectively and concertedly demand that Türkiye control its borders, prevent illegal departures from its territory and take action against illegal traffickers as it should. At the same time, it must restart the process of returns to Türkiye based on the Joint Declaration.
In any case, Greece remains committed to protecting its borders, as required by International Law.
Dear Nikos, I sincerely thank you for the excellent hospitality in Paphos, for the excellent work that the Republic of Cyprus has done, especially in the matter of deportations and returns.
Thank you for the opportunity you have given us to draw up a common strategy in the course of the New Pact negotiations.”
To a question from the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Mr. Mitarachi answered:
"I want to express my regret and the Greek government's disgust for the loss of human life in the Aegean. Although the active guarding of the borders has brought a sharp drop in the number of victims in the Aegean, no loss of life can be accepted. And here there are responsibilities. When sailing ships are loaded with 100 or 200 people from Turkish ports heading for Italy, it is not possible that the Turkish authorities have not detected them. Türkiye has made a commitment since 2016 to prevent any illegal departure. We learned about the tragic incident in Lesvos, that the migrant boat, which is usually driven by people with no experience at sea, was protected, in terms of waves, for most of the way by Turkish fishing boats. Which when the boat entered Greek territorial waters, they withdrew and left the boat exposed to the strong waves in the difficult weather conditions. The EU must act, impose on Türkiye what it has agreed, the implementation of the 2016 Joint Declaration. The Hellenic Coast Guard and the Coast Guard everyday fight, fight at sea to protect lives and systematically rescue people. We have to find the legal ways so that those who need it for humanitarian and other reasons can come to Europe, bypassing the smuggling rings. It is unacceptable that smugglers choose who can live in the European Union."
To a question from the Associated Press, Mr. Mitarachi answered:
“On the point you raised, Frontex is very important asset in resource for the European Union. We believe that it should further been strengthen and focused on core activity. Frontex was created to prevent illegal entries into the European Union. And this is the role Frontex has to play. It is clear that when the boarders are well protected and well monitored, the loss of life diminishes substantially and I think the focus here needs to be for Frontex to have more assets, but also assets working outside the territorial waters of the European Union. It has always been a position, that we need to end this kind of bilateral agreements and the Joint Statement of 2016, although not complete was at the right direction to work with countries of transit with them to prevent from the soil the departures of vessels toward the European Union. And it is Frontex that needs to play this role.”
To a question from the Polish Press Agency, Mr. Mitarachi answered:
“Μigration will no ever stop as phenomenon. We are not advocating that Europe should be closed to migration. Europe needs to provide legal pathways for people to come, Greece was among the first countries who offer humanitarian visas for female dignitaries after the change of the government of the collapse of the Afghan government to come to Greece in a safe way. But, I think we need a two fold approach. One the one hand, invest in humanitarian actions and at the same time, we need to act for the return of those coming irregularly to the European Union if they are not entitled for the international protection. We need to send a strong message that Europe will be open, Europe will always have the values that identify us and provide safe haven in people in need, but we have to do it in an organized, coordinated and legal way and not allow us – as I said before – the smugglers to make that choice for us, for any substantial financial profit. So working with countries on transit to return people back, when they coming irregularly into the European Union, but at the same time, providing enough legal pathways should be the way forward for the European Union.”
On Friday, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, awarded the Commendation Μedal of Class Α for their significant contribution to the management of the migration crisis and limiting its effects in the Mediterranean, to his counterparts:
- Nikos Nouri, Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Cyprus
- Byron Camilleri, Minister for Home Affairs, Security, Reform and Equality, Republic of Malta
- Fernando Grande-Marlasca, Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Spain