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Greek PM says his government's number one priority is to speed up migrant deportations to Turkey

Refugee Rescue says stopping people in Turkish waters and returning them is in violation of international law

GREECE’S Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told journalists today that his government’s plans to speed up migrant deportations to Turkey. 

Mr Mitsotakis told French news agency AFP: “Our number one priority [is to] accelerate the asylum process. When someone is not entitled to asylum, then he or she needs to return to Turkey.

“[Greece will need] more European support, the technology to identify the boats even before they leave the Turkish shore, the ability to communicate with the Turkish coast guard so the boats are actually stopped within Turkish territorial waters.”

Roman Kutzowitz, media co-ordinator for Refugee Rescue, a grassroots rescue charity operating on Lesbos, told the Star that the PM’s proposal was problematic on several levels. 

“Firstly, stopping people in Turkish waters and returning them is in violation of Article 33 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of the Refugee Convention, meaning it is illegal under international law,” Mr Kutzowitz said. 

“Everyone has a right to non-refoulement. For the esteemed Mr President to be complicit in such a crime seems somewhat ill-advised. 

“Furthermore, I have met people during rescues that said they have tried 10 or 12 times to cross. They were apprehended and tried again, and again until they'd made it. 

“The Turkish Coastguard may apprehend some boats, but the people will try again until they have made it. Our human need for safety and a dignified life is stronger than these human-made borders.”

UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Liz Throssell told the Star the humanitarian situation on the islands is critical.

“More than 26,000 people are staying in five island reception centres that have a capacity for just 5,400 and conditions have deteriorated sharply,” Ms Throssell said. 

“UNHCR has called on Greece to urgently move thousands of asylum-seekers out of dangerously overcrowded centres with crucial EU support.

“It is also important to stress that longer-term solutions are also needed, including supporting refugees to become self-reliant and integrate in Greece.”

Meanwhile in the capital, activists shared pictures on social media early this morning of a police raid on two buildings in the Exarchia neighbourhood, which is known for its anarchist and migrant squats. 



Photos show around 35 people rounded onto buses by armed officers where they are expected to be taken to a migrant reception centre and have their asylum claims processed.  


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