In a harsh statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in an interview with Greek Immigration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis that Turkey was not implementing the March 18, 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Statement.
Hami Aksoy’s statement:
“Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi’s statements that Turkey is not implementing the 18 March Statement using COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse are claims expressed with the motive of covering up Greece’s crimes against asylum-seekers, aiming to distort realities.
Turkey has fulfilled her obligations on the basis of the 18 March Statement. Thanks to this, illegal crossings to Europe have been reduced by 92%. In this respect, it is the European Union that has not fulfilled her responsibilities.
Under the framework of the 18 March Statement, among the asylum-seekers reaching Greek islands, Turkey only accepts the return of those whose international protection applications are rejected or who do not need international protection. Until today, 2.139 irregular migrants fulfilling these criteria have been returned from Greek islands.
Greece, on the other hand, suspended asylum applications for 1 month in violation of the EU founding treaties and international obligations and is trying to send asylum-seekers to Turkey without registering them and even without evaluating their asylum applications, which is contrary to the 18 March Statement.
International organizations have also openly revealed that Greece’s new asylum law is not compatible with international standards and EU directives.
On the other hand, measures are in place to protect public health and security all over the world due to COVID-19 pandemic. As a matter of fact, the EU has temporarily suspended the resettlement program, an important element of the 18 March Statement, to protect public health. Turkey, for the same reason, has also temporarily stopped returns foreseen in the Statement and has notified Greek authorities to that effect.
Deplorable conditions of the refugee camps in Greece and the need for Greece to follow the example of Turkey in this respect have also been expressed by a Greek journalist.
We recommend Greece to take urgent measures to prevent humanitarian tragedy because of the pandemic and respect the right to life and health of asylum-seekers”./ibna