The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, submitted a new request to Frontex and the European Commission, for the immediate return to Turkey of 1.908 illegal economic migrants, who live in camps in the Aegean islands.
In a letter to the Vice-President of the European Commission Mr Margaritis Schoinas, the Commissioner for Home Affairs Ms Ylva Johansson, the Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Mr Olivér Várhelyi and the Head of Frontex Mr Fabrice Leggeri, Mr. Mitarachi asks for the immediate return to Turkey, of 1.908 foreigners who are not entitled to international protection, based on the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Declaration.
The return to Turkey of those who entered Greece from the neighboring country and are not entitled to international protection can take place on the basis of the first paragraph of the joint EU-Turkey declaration, which states that all migrants who have entered Greece from Turkey after March 20, 2016 and are not entitled to international protection, will return to Turkey.
The return process has been stopped since March 15, 2020, when Turkey cited difficulties caused by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the last 17 months, Turkey has refused to implement its commitments, and continues to refuse to engage in any way on the issue.
However, the introduction of rapid screening procedures for Covid-19 in Greece and the significant acceleration of the asylum process mean that the right conditions do exist for the resumption of the safe return process for those foreigners who are not entitled to international protection and entered Greece from Turkey. These returns are in accordance with the law and in compliance with health protocols. This is a necessary step in what is a strict but fair migration policy, with respect for European values and the rules of international law.
The Minister of Migration and Asylum Mr. Notis Mitarachi, stated:
"Our country consistently implements a strict but fair migration policy. Giving international protection to those who are entitled to it, but at the same time returning those who are not as it is provided by national and international law.
The separation of refugees from illegally entering economic migrants is achieved in a reliable way by the Asylum Service and the Appeals Authority, services that have dramatically increased their effectiveness in 2020.
As part of this policy, we have today submitted a new request to the European Commission and Frontex, for the return of 1.908 migrants who are in the islands of the Eastern Aegean but are not entitled to international protection.
We expect the neighboring country to step up its efforts under the Joint Declaration. Both in the prevention of the passage of boats starting from its shores to our country and in the acceptance of returns on the basis of the Joint Declaration between the EU and Turkey, but also in relation to bilateral readmission agreements.
At the same time, the question for Europe remains to establish in the new Migration and Asylum Pact a common mechanism, as well as the necessary legal arguments for returns and to fortify, in this way, the first host countries against uncontrolled migration flows, but also the action of smuggling networks."