Ahead of a meeting with German President Joachim Gauch, Greece’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on Monday accused neighboring country Turkey of aggravating the refugee crisis, which has overwhelmed authorities in both Greece and Germany.
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“I have a strong fear that Turkish smugglers have the support of the authorities, in particular, border authorities who act like they have seen nothing,” Pavlopoulos told German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung.”
“There are even cases where the smugglers are helped. We have evidence. It’s a type of slave trade,” the president said, adding that he was not speaking about the country’s leaders, in an apparent reference to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyep Erdogan.
Human rights and aid organizations have repeatedly raised similar concerns about Turkish border authorities’ implication in human trafficking, according to Reuters news agency.
The EU has offered Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in the form of an aid fund as well as restarting EU accession talks in exchange for Ankara curbing the number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to enter the 28-nation bloc.
Meanwhile, Pavlopoulos met with his German counterpart Gauck on Monday to discuss several issues, including Europe’s handling of the latest migration wave.
“Without Europe-wide solutions, we will be unable to deal with the present situation. Therefore, we have to both ensure solidarity and to accept solidarity,” Gauck said, referring to the continent’s largest refugee crisis since World War II.
Pavlopoulos took the opportunity to discuss Turkey’s role in the matter, saying the country wasn’t doing enough to unlock EU funds aimed at assisting Ankara’s ability to cope with refugee housing.
“We will respond in an appropriate manner to the refugee questions but Turkey must also fulfill its engagements,” Pavlopoulos said during a press conference following the talks.
“These illegal economic migrants, who arrive in Greece because Turkish authorities are not doing their work, should be sent back to Turkey under the accords in force,” the Greek president added.
Turkey has registered more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, according to UN figures. In 2015, Germany received more than one million asylum seekers and migrants, while Greece witnessed some 800,000 arrivals.