Greece seeks agreement with Turkey amid surge in migrant arrivals

Greece seeks agreement with Turkey amid surge in migrant arrivals
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Athens to negotiate with Ankara enhanced border security and migrant return, with the possibility of eased visa restrictions for Turkish Citizens, reports Kathimerini.

According to a recent report by Kathimerini, Greece is actively seeking a comprehensive agreement with Turkey to manage and restrict the escalating flow of migrants and refugees into the country. This urgent initiative was highlighted during the latest Council for Foreign and Defense Affairs (KYSEA) meeting, where migration dominated the discussion due to a significant increase in arrivals.

In 2023, over 30,000 migrants and refugees have entered Greece, a stark increase compared to 18,000 in 2022 and 8,000 in 2021. The latter was a year when travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic partially stemmed the influx. Amid this backdrop, the Greek government is advocating for a direct communication channel between the coast guards of the two nations to address emergent situations effectively.

Greece's three-fold expectation from Turkey includes enhanced surveillance of its land and sea borders to prevent migrant flows, a rigorous crackdown on human traffickers, and the acceptance of deportations from Greece. The improvement in bilateral relations has imbued Athens with optimism about potential cooperation from Ankara.

However, the government recognizes that successful negotiations require offering incentives to Turkey. One such incentive could be advocating for the relaxation or abolition of visa requirements for Turkish citizens traveling to countries under the Schengen agreement. However, this proposition is contingent upon approval from the European Union.

Migration and Asylum Minister Dimitris Kairidis is scheduled to meet EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in Brussels to discuss the visa issue. Greece continues to uphold the stance that the challenges posed by migration are not isolated to one or a few nations but are a collective issue that necessitates a unified response from the European Union.

The EU's agreement with Turkey since 2016 has involved considerable aid in exchange for Turkey's commitment to manage and restrict migrant flows. Although adherence to the deal has been inconsistent, Turkey currently hosts over 3.5 million Syrians fleeing civil unrest.

A proposal is on the table for the EU to accept a certain number of these Syrian refugees annually, conditional upon Turkey's enhanced cooperation in meeting Greece's three core demands. This proposition, however, could ignite political controversy in Europe, where sentiments towards migration have notably hardened. The unfolding developments signal a critical juncture in the regional approach to migration, with implications for Greece, Turkey, and the broader European Union.