Greek president, PM condemn Turkey over migrant deaths in Aegean

Greece’s president and prime minister on Friday accused Turkey of causing migrants deaths in the Aegean sea by allowing ship packed with migrants sail from its coast, Euronews Turkish reported.

The Greek leaders’ remarks were linked to shipwrecks off the coasts of two Greek islands earlier this week, which resulted in the death of at least 23 migrants, with at least 10 more missing.

“The Mediterranean should be a sea of peace and prosperity and not a field to [weaponize] the human pain from Turkey,” Greek newspaper cited President Katerina Sakellaropoulou as saying  on Friday during a meeting with her Maltese counterpart in Valletta.

Migrants are among the string of ongoing sources of tension between Turkey and Greece. Ankara has frequently blamed Greece of engaging in violent and unlawful pushbacks against refugees, saying the acts are a crime against humanity, a charge Athens denies. 

Greece, for its part, accuses Ankara of using asylum-seeking migrants as political weapons, saying that it is obliged to stop them covertly entering Greece under an 2016 EU-Turkey deal to stem migration flows.

“The root of this problem is the boats leaving the Turkish coastline,” Kathimerini cited Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as saying from the Czech capital Prague Friday, while attending an informal meeting of EU heads of government. “And there is no doubt that Turkey, if it wants to, can do more to tackle this problem.”

Mitsotakis called on Turkey “to cooperate with Greece to stop these ruthless networks of traffickers of people in distress so no more lives are needlessly lost in the Aegean Sea.’’

The two deadly shipwrecks on Wednesday highlight the need for common European action in order to tackle the human trafficking rings and prevent, as much as possible, similar tragic incidents in the future, Sakellaropoulou said.

The death toll from the two migrant boat wrecks in Greek waters climbed to at least 23, the Greek coastguard said Friday.

Five of the bodies were found at the island of Kythira, south of the Peloponnese peninsula, where a sailboat believed to have 95 people on board sank on Wednesday night, AFP reported.

Another 18 people, most of them women, died when a boat carrying 40 people sank near Lesbos, the agency said.

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