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World

Greece: EU-Turkey Deal Still Holding After Coup Attempt

About 57,000 migrants and refugees remain stranded in Greece, most in army-built camps on the mainland

A Syrian woman fries eggs in front of her tent at Ritsona refugee camp north of Athens, which hosts more than 600 refugees and migrants, photo: AP/Petros Giannakouris
1 year ago

A Greek government official said Wednesday that there was no sign yet that a deal between the European Union and Turkey to stop migrants coming to Europe has faltered since the attempted military coup in the country.

Daily arrivals by migrants and refugees at Greek islands near the Turkish coast have remained low since the July 15 coup attempt, government crisis committee spokesman Giorgos Kyritsis said.

But he said the Greek government had renewed requests to the EU to end delays in emergency funding and the implementation of a relocation program for migrants stranded in Greece.

Tension has risen between Turkey and the EU over alleged large-scale human rights abuses following the coup attempt and prompted concern that the migrant deal could collapse.

Austria’s foreign minister, long skeptical about the Turkey deal, told German weekly Der Spiegel that “we cannot sit back and hope that the deal with Turkey holds.”

“I already warned in May that we should not become dependent on Turkey and the agreement with Ankara can only be Plan B,” Sebastian Kurz was quoted as saying.

“In view of the threats from Turkey, it is becoming even clearer now that we need this Plan A,” he said.

The ongoing war in Syria helped trigger a dramatic rise in refugee crossings from Turkey last year, with more than 2,000 people arriving each day on Greek islands last year. About a million people transited Greece on their way to Europe’s prosperous heartland from the beginning of 2015 to late March, when the EU-Turkey deal took effect following border closures in Austria and the Balkans. After that, the numbers dropped sharply.

Migrants who live in the Hellenikon refugee and migrant camp in Athens wait to register for asylum. A government official in Athens on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2106 said to the Associated Press that there is no sign yet that a deal between the European Union and Turkey to stop migrants coming to Europe has faltered since the attempted military coup in the country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Migrants who live in the Hellenikon refugee and migrant camp in Athens wait to register for asylum. Photo: AP/Petros Giannakouris

“So far, Turkey has not shown that it is not honoring the agreement. On some days we have 100 arrivals. On others, we have none at all. So no pattern has emerged.” Kyritsis said in Athens.

“We continue to request that relocations are speeded up. The second issue is funding: Money promised is being paid out in small amounts and not regularly.”

In Berlin, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Wednesday the EU and the German government stand by the agreements with Turkey.

“The German government continues to assume that Turkey will continue to fulfill the agreements concluded with the EU,” she said.

About 57,000 migrants and refugees remain stranded in Greece, most in army-built camps on the mainland.

Police on Wednesday said 400 migrants from Iraq’s small Yazidi religious minority had left a 4,000-bed camp in northern Greece and were asking to be transferred to another site, telling authorities that they were being mistreated by other camp dwellers.

It was unclear whether they would be moved from the camp, located near the northern town of Polykastro.

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