ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece urged Turkey on Tuesday to do more to thwart irregular crossings of migrants into its territory, saying recent arrivals, particularly from Somalia, appeared to be coordinated.
More than half of arrivals on the Greek island of Lesbos from Nov. 1 were from Somalia, whose nationals crossed from Turkey, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told a news briefing.
“Currently there are between two and three thousand migrants on the Turkish west coast,” Mitarachi said.
Of a total of 214 migrants reaching Lesbos, 142 were from Somalia, he said.
Somalians were obtaining student or healthcare visas for Turkey, and from there, with assistance from criminal gangs, attempting to cross into Greece, he said.
“These people are essentially arriving legally in Turkey, for the express purpose of illegal trafficking into Europe,” the Greek official said.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict, mainly from the Middle East, flowed from Turkey into Greece and further into Europe in 2015 and 2016, when a deal between the European Union and Turkish authorities restricted the flow.
The deal has largely held, even though Greece and Turkey, regional rivals, frequently exchange barbs of the other not meeting its commitments.
“There should be no doubt; this isn’t about geopolitics, it’s about illegal trafficking of people into the European Union. We are simply asking Turkey to uphold its obligation by helping us to proactively manage, and limit, illegal migration.”
(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Angus MacSwan)