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Greek Migration Minister says sinking of migrant boat in Aegean Sea that claimed four lives shows flaws in EU-Turkey deal aimed at stemming uncontrolled migration flows to the west

ATHENS, Greece – The fatal sinking of a migrant boat in the Aegean Sea that claimed the lives of four people shows the flaws in an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to stem uncontrolled migratory flows to the West, Greece’s Migration Minister said on Wednesday.

Notis Mitarachi said the victims of the crash off the eastern Greek island of Chios – two Somali children and two adults – should never have been allowed to leave the Turkish coast in an overcrowded contraband dinghy.

Greece is a major entry point into the EU for Asians or Africans fleeing conflict or poverty, most of whom leave Turkey in dilapidated boats. Reinforced patrols by Greek authorities, assisted by the EU’s border agency, have restricted flows in recent years after nearly a million people made the trip in 2015.

Mitarachi told a press conference that up to four people are still missing in Monday’s sinking, while 22 Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese have been rescued – three of whom are being treated in hospital.

He said the shipwreck “highlights the cruel reality of the exploitation of migrants” who are not persecuted in Turkey by criminal gangs.

Mitarachi said Somalis in particular “fly to Turkey on visas, are well received in Turkey… and have all the characteristics of a person who has been provided with a safe place. Therefore, we see absolutely no reason for them to go to Greece – or other EU countries. “

Greece has designated Turkey as a safe country for Somalis, Afghans, Syrians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis – nationalities that feature prominently among those illegally crossing Turkey into Greece.

The minister said people at risk in their own country should “obviously” have the right to seek asylum, but that does not give them the right to travel through many countries to determine what “suits them best. “.

A 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey – which itself has a huge migrant and refugee population – aimed to curb illegal migration. But Mitarachi said it was not working because the deal was to stop “unnecessary travel” such as Monday’s.

“The Turkish authorities can and must do more to prevent the exploitation (of migrants) by criminal gangs (…) for which (…) the European Union must offer tangible support” to Turkey, a- he declared.

Turkey says the EU has not fulfilled its end of the remittances deal.

Mitarachi acknowledged that not everyone in the European Parliament or the Executive Commission agrees on how to deal with migratory flows.

“But in the case of people crossing illegally from safe countries, not trying to save their lives from conflict or persecution, and crossing very dangerously in rubber dinghies, we should be able to agree that such acts put lives at risk, ”he said. noted.

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