The Telegraph . Tue, December 8, 2020, 6:49 PM GMT+1
Greece accused Turkey of handing out visas to Somalis and then encouraging them to enter Europe as illegal immigrants, in the latest row to antagonise relations between the regional rivals.
Turkey has set up offices in Somalia to entice Somalis to come to Turkey, from where they are put in touch with people smugglers who take them across the Aegean to Greek islands, Athens claimed.
“In Somalia, we understand that the Turkish authorities, the ministry of education and other ministries, are promoting immigration to Turkey,” said Notis Mitarachi, Greece’s migration minister.
“We understand that as many as 300 people have flown to Turkey in this way. These people are essentially arriving legally in Turkey, for the express purpose of illegal trafficking into Europe.
“It is worrying that Turkey appears to be facilitating the arrival of these migrants by willingly providing visas for travel,” Mr Mitarachi said.
Children by the sea close to the Kara Tepe camp, which replaced the notorious Moria camp when it burned down in September – AP
The survivors of a migrant boat sinking on December 2 had provided information to Greek officials about the alleged scam.
“When Somalis arrive in Istanbul, they are transferred in vans, to specific areas of the city where they stay until their relocation to the western Turkish coast can be arranged,” the minister said.
“There should be no doubt; this isn’t about geopolitics, it’s about illegal trafficking of people into the European Union.”
Of 214 asylum seekers who reached the Aegean island of Lesbos in recent weeks, 142 were from Somalia, the minister said. Turkey did not immediately respond to the allegations.
Greece has for years accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of weaponising the issue of migration and using it as a bargaining chip, threatening to allow the four million refugees on Turkish soil to enter Europe.
When there was a surge in the number of migrants and refugees trying to cross the land border between Greece and Turkey earlier this year, Athens said the push was orchestrated by Ankara.
Relations between Turkey and Greece have been fraught for months, aggravated by disputes over the divided island of Cyprus and Ankara’s prospecting for oil and gas in Mediterranean waters claimed by Athens.
Greece has accused President Erdogan of using the migration issue as a means of applying pressure on the EU – Reuters
The EU is expected to discuss imposing sanctions against Turkey at a summit in Brussels this week.
Turkey is likely to find itself increasingly isolated under the new US administration, with a Biden government likely to take a tougher stance than Donald Trump’s presidency, analysts say.
“Biden’s own review of US-Turkey relations will create some alignment with the EU over the East Med. Congress is already supportive of Turkey’s regional rivals, including Greece and Cyprus, and pressure is separately building in Washington to sanction Turkey over its purchase of Russian S-400 missiles,” said Emre Peker, an analyst with the Eurasia Group.