Turkey denies increase in migrants crossing to Greece, questions EU math

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has denied European Union reports that the flow of migrants from Turkey to Europe has increased, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

Greek authorities have stepped up sea patrols and begun shipping refugees from islands to the mainland after a large spike in the number of migrants crossing from Turkey, the Guardian reported on Monday.

The uptick appears to have been driven by a Turkish crackdown on undocumented migrants and by the Syrian government’s increased bombing of the last rebel-held province of Idlib, the Guardian said.

However, Soylu rejected EU officials’ claims that the number of migrants making the crossing had increased and said, "if the EU was concerned about Turkey as much as Greece, the problems may be solved."

"I believe that the UN is following the issue with much more attention than the EU. We regret the recent statement from the EU,” Soylu said.

Soylu said the number of migrants to cross to Greece in the first eight months of 2019 stood at 29,025, marking an 8 percent drop from the 30,842 who crossed last year during the same period.

“Obviously they don’t teach mathematics in European universities, primary or secondary schools,” said the minister.

The minister’s take on the number of migrants crossing jars with reports from the Turkish Coast Guard, which operates under the Interior Ministry’s command, and contradicts data from the United Nations.

The coast guard reported a seven-fold increase in the number of migrants attempting the crossing in August to 7,834, compared to 1,311 during the same period last year.

The August figures followed large increases over the previous two months, NBC News reported.

“While the Turkish Coast Guard’s figures show the number of people rescued or stopped from going to Greece, data collected by the U.N. shows that the number who were able to make it across also jumped, nearly doubling in July and August,” NBC said.