Greece says Turkey not abiding by EU refugee agreement

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday said Turkey was not complying with its refugee agreement with the EU and called on Germany and other EU states to take in migrants and asylum seekers directly from the island of Lesbos.

Greece is working hard to deal with worrisome humanitarian conditions in refugee camps in Lesbos and other Greek islands, Mitsotakis said.

"The idea is that a portion of the asylum application process be carried out in other countries," Deutsche Welle quoted Mitsotakis as telling German Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "We need to develop a European asylum and migration pact, like what the [European] Commission promised, and in dealing with this problem, we need more burden sharing".

Athens last month announced plans to overhaul its migration management system, which is struggling with overcrowded refugee camps on the islands. 

Migrant crossings from Turkey to Greece have dramatically increased over the last couple of months as bilateral relations between the two countries have deteriorated due to a dispute over the hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

"We are working hard to deal with this problem,’’ the Greek prime minister said, referring to deteriorating conditions in the camps.

Following growing scrutiny from aid agencies over the conditions many refugees are living under, Athens announced last month it would shut down number of overcrowded camps on its outer islands, and set up a closed holding centre.

"However, Turkey is unfortunately not following the EU-Turkey refugee agreement, which worked quite well for 2.5 years,’’ Mitsotakis said. 

Turkey and EU in 2016 agreed on a deal that aimed to cut the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. According to the deal, the EU promised the allocation of €3 billion in aid to Turkey to help migrants. The deal also included the end of visa restrictions applied to Turkish citizens when travelling to Europe as of June 2016, but the visa restrictions still remain.

As per the agreement, Turkey has measures to drastically reduce the number of attempted crossings since 2016. However, there has been a recent resurgence in the number of migrants crossing into Europe through the Aegean Sea.