Don't try to coerce Europe over refugee plan, Greek prime minister tells Turkey

Turkey plans to resettle 1 million refugees in northern Syria and may reopen the route for migrants into Europe

A migrant from Afghanistan and her daughter make their way at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece. Reuters
A migrant from Afghanistan and her daughter make their way at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece. Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Sunday that Turkey should not try to coerce Greece or Europe to secure support for a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in northern Syria.

Turkey plans to resettle 1 million refugees in Syria but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that it might reopen the route for migrants into Europe if it did not receive adequate support for the plan.

"Mr Erdogan must understand that he cannot threaten Greece and Europe in an attempt to secure more resources to handle the refugee issue," Mr Mitsotakis said in Thessaloniki.

"Europe has given a lot of money, €6 billion [Dh24.3bn] in recent years, within the framework of an agreement between Europe and Turkey and which was mutually beneficial."

Greece, which shares a long sea border with Turkey, was one of the frontline countries taking in many thousands of refugees and migrants at the peak of the crisis.

In 2015, thousands of people were arriving on Greek shores every day.

The numbers dropped dramatically after the EU and Ankara enacted a deal in March 2016 to cut off the flow, but there has been a sharp rise recently in arrivals on outlying Greek islands that are close to Turkey.

The number of monthly arrivals to Greece jumped in August to about 7,000, the highest in three years.

Turkey has about 4 million Syrians – by far the biggest group of refugees who have fled Syria after its eight-year civil war.

Mr Mitsotakis said he could not rule out a discussion in the "spirit of good-will" at a European level with Turkey on how to extend the financial benefits of the 2016 deal.

But he said this would not happen while Greece was on the receiving end of "threats" and "bullying" behaviour.

Updated: September 8, 2019 11:56 PM

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