Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated his determination to revise the asylum policies of the country, saying on Wednesday that irregular migrants who have the right of asylum can remain in Greece, but those who cannot obtain it should return to Turkey, according to a deal between Ankara and the European Union. Speaking to French daily Le Figaro in advance of his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mitsotakis said Greece would change its national policies on requesting asylum and speed up the decision-making process.
Turkey and the European Union signed an agreement in 2016 to reduce the number of illegal migrants on the dangerous Aegean Sea route. The deal stipulates that Greece sends migrants held on its Aegean islands back to Turkey. In return, Turkey sends Syrian migrants it hosts to various European Union countries. The deal also saw an escalated crackdown on human smugglers and increased sea patrols to prevent immigrants from attempting to cross. For a while, it helped reduce the number, but many migrants still risk the dangerous crossing.
Stressing Turkey's importance as a neighbor and NATO ally, Mitsotakis said Greece is eager to work with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to resolve issues such as migration. A common policy on asylum in the European Union needs to be pursued, he added. This is not the first time that the newly elected Greek prime minister showed a green light to Turkey as his positive remarks continued since day one of his term in office.
"I call on President Erdoğan for a mutual approach in which we will take brave steps," said newly elected Mitsotakis in one of the first speeches that he gave following his inauguration as prime minister last month. Speaking to a French magazine following his election, the new prime minister said that extradition policies also would be changed; the newly elected prime minister said that those who do not have the right to asylum in Greece would be extradited to their home country, Turkey. Mitsotakis said that the Dublin agreement needs to be reformed and the extradition policies of EU member countries should be compatible with each other. Yet, since these reforms cannot be achieved at short notice, the prime minister decided to issue his own reforms, which are expected to enable the extradition process to work more quickly and efficiently.
The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated Turkey's defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured. FETÖ was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state by infiltrating Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary. Greece has been a major destination for prominent figures linked to the terrorist group fleeing Turkey. Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of the FETÖ mouthpiece newspaper Zaman, as well as Cevheri Güven, a journalist involved in a plot by FETÖ to implicate a politician in a sex tape scandal, were among those who fled to Greece after investigations were launched against them in Turkey. Dumanlı is believed to be in the U.S., while Güven still resides in Thessaloniki. Turkey has repeatedly accused Greece of being a haven for terrorists that committed crimes against Turks. Although the two countries are looking to fix strained ties, Athens recently angered Ankara over a string of decisions on asylum and the release of terror suspects wanted by Turkey. For instance, eight soldiers involved in the 2016 coup attempt that fled to Greece were released by the country's authorities despite repeated extradition requests from Turkey. Most recently, the country also released two other suspects involved in the 2016 coup attempt.