Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis has hailed a “u-turn” in Turkey’s migration policy, saying it has led to a “dramatic” drop in the number of people arriving in Greece illegally.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mitarakis said that the number of illegal arrivals in Greece had fallen by 90% since Turkey began implementing a new migration deal with the European Union in March.
“There has been a dramatic drop in illegal arrivals since Turkey started cooperating with us,” Mitarakis said. “This is a clear sign that Turkey is committed to reducing the flow of migrants to Europe.”
The new migration deal between Turkey and the EU was struck in response to the refugee crisis of 2015-16, when over a million people arrived in Europe illegally, many of them fleeing the war in Syria.
Under the deal, Turkey agreed to stop migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece in exchange for financial assistance from the EU and a promise to resettle more Syrian refugees from Turkey.
Mitarakis said that the deal had been “very successful” in reducing the number of illegal arrivals in Greece. He also praised Turkey for its cooperation with Greece on migration issues.
“Turkey is a key partner for us on migration,” Mitarakis said. “We have a very good relationship with the Turkish government and we are working together to manage the flow of migrants.”
The EU has also praised Turkey for its cooperation on migration. In a statement released in March, the European Commission said that Turkey had “taken significant steps” to implement the migration deal.
“The decrease in the number of illegal crossings from Turkey to Greece is a positive development,” the statement said. “The Commission commends Turkey for its efforts to implement the EU-Turkey Statement.”
However, some human rights groups have criticized the EU-Turkey migration deal, saying that it has led to Turkey violating the rights of refugees and migrants.
In a report released in June, Amnesty International said that Turkey had been “arbitrarily detaining and deporting refugees and migrants” in violation of international law.
The report also said that Turkey was “using the threat of deportation to pressure refugees and migrants into signing waivers of their right to seek asylum in Europe.”
Despite the criticism, the EU-Turkey migration deal has been successful in reducing the number of illegal arrivals in Greece. This has led to a more manageable situation for both Greece and the EU.