08 October, 2007
The Greek government on Sunday pointed directly to what it called a surge in illegal immigration on the country's sea and land borders with Turkey, stressing that sincere cooperation is required at international and bilateral level to deal with the problem.
"Greece believes that the problem of illegal immigration, with its intense humanitarian dimension, can be handled effectively with sincere cooperation at the international and bilateral level; with productive cooperation between neighbouring countries ... but not through false allegations and unfounded accusations," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stressed on Sunday.
"At a time when all evidence shows, beyond any doubt, that Greece's eastern land and sea borders are experiencing continuous and intensifying pressure from an increasing number of illegal immigrants, certain circles in Turkey are making, in various ways, an overt effort to distort reality and to avoid their own responsibilities," the spokesman added.
Koumoutsakos further underlined that "we have repeatedly noted and pointed out inadequate and incomplete policing on the Turkish side of the border. This is encouraging the flow of illegal immigrants, which in most cases takes place with ways and means that are dangerous for their lives."
"On the contrary, Greece places a great emphasis on handling the phenomenon of illegal immigration given, indeed, that the largest portion of its borders is an external border of the European Union, and all a border of the Schengen Pact area. It is indicative that 7,944 illegal immigrants were arrested on (Greece's) eastern land and sea borders in 2005; in 2006 it was 22,151, while during the first eight months of 2007 17,897 illegal immigrants (attempting to reach Greece via Turkey) have already been detained."
Turkey, he added, "is not responding substantively to commitments it has assumed with the Greek-Turkish readmission Protocol of 2001. There is unwillingness for effective cooperation. As a matter of fact, between April 2002 until May 2007 it (Turkey) has accepted for readmission only 1,646 illegal immigrants out of claims for 24,754, which is a percentage of about 6.65 percent."
Furthermore, the spokesman added that no real progress has been achieved in negotiations to conclude a readmission agreement between Turkey and the EU.
"What is necessary, and what we are looking forward to from the Turkish side is, on the one hand, a substantive response within the framework of existing bilateral cooperation between the relevant authorities and, on the other, the speedy conclusion of the readmission agreement with the EU," he concluded.
Source: Athens News Agency