Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Friday summoned the Turkish Ambassador to Greece, Burak Ozugergin, to express the Greek concern over the increased influx of migrants from Turkey.
The meeting was held after more than 600 migrants landed on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos in a single day on Thursday.
It was the highest number in a day for three years since the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Declaration was signed, said Boris Cheshirkov, spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Greece.
“It surprised us. It is highly unusual to have so many boats at the same time, it is an anomaly. We cannot say for certain what the reason is,” said Cheshirkov.
The Greek minister emphasized Turkey’s obligations within the context of the EU-Turkey deal which stipulates Turkey has to take all the necessary measures to prevent migrants from reaching Greece.
Turkey’s envoy reportedly said he would brief the Turkish authorities accordingly, stressing that Ankara remains committed to the 2016 statement.
Athens has also briefed the European Union (EU) on the recent developments, as the issue is primarily of European interest.
On Friday, the Greek authorities took a decision to transfer 1,002 highly vulnerable refugees from the Moria detention facility on the island, which has been described by humanitarian organizations as unsafe, inhumane, and overcrowded with more than 10,000 migrants currently residing there.
The refugees will be transferred on September 3 to the Nea Kavala center in the area of Kilkis in Central Macedonia, northern Greece.
At the height of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, thousands of people arrived on Greek shores every day. The numbers dropped dramatically after the European Union and Ankara implemented a deal in March 2016.
This year, around 56,000 refugees and migrants are reported to have arrived in Europe, with nearly half of them having landed on the Greek islands. According to the United Nations (UN), the number has risen in recent months.
A total of 1,929 migrants arrived on Lesbos in the first two weeks of August, while the figure was 479 in the same period last year.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said attacks by forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Idlib province were threatening to trigger new flows of refugees trying to flee the country.
Another influx to Europe may be on the way, the Turkish minister warned. The Russia-backed Syrian regime’s offensive on Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold which is home to over three million people, began in April and has intensified in recent weeks.
More than 1,500 civilians have been killed and nearly 500,000 have been driven from their homes, with tens of thousands of Syrians have recently headed towards the Turkish border, according to war monitors. The UN warns that the humanitarian crisis in Idlib could be the biggest in the 21st century.
Thousands on Friday protested at Syria’s closed border with neighboring Turkey. Turkish security forces allegedly used live bullets and tear gas against some protesters who broke through the barriers at the border, causing unconfirmed casualties.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been backing some rebel fighters in their fight against al-Assad and his sponsor Russia.
Demonstrators burned Erdogan’s photos taken while he was eating ice cream with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a one-day visit on Thursday.
Some Syrians feel betrayed as Erdogan has become closer to Putin in recent months.“You disappointed us and you cannot protect us, so open your borders. Let us go to Europe,” a protester was quoted as chanting by the Telegraph newspaper.