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EU-Turkey migration deal is 'dead,' warns Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gestures during a press conference.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gestures during a press conference.   -   Copyright  Giannis Papanikos/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the EU-Turkey migration deal is dead. In an interview with CNN, he said Turkey has "decided to completely violate the agreement because of what happened in Syria."

This comes after Turkey's decision to allow migrants to make their way towards the EU, triggering fears of another migration crisis in Europe.

Amid reports of tensions between the Turkish and Greek coast guards, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instructed the Turkish coastguard to prevent migrants from crossing to Greece on boats.

"Illegal migrant crossings over the Aegean Sea are forbidden due to the risks," the Turkish coastguard stated with reference to Erdogan's instructions.

Nevertheless, thousands of migrants are currently stalled at the land border between the two countries.

'Europe is not going to be blackmailed by Turkey'

What we're dealing with is not really a migration or refugee problem," Mitsotakis said in the CNN interview. "It's a conscious attempt by Turkey to use migrants and refugees as geopolitical pawns to promote its own interest."

Moreover, Mitsotakis accuses Turkey of spreading false news about the events at the border and points out that those who are crossing are not Syrians, who are fleeing as a result of the violence in Idlib.

He defended Greece's actions, saying that his country is merely defending its sovereign borders, accusing Turkey of encouraging people to cross to Greece illegally. Mitsotakis added that "Europe is not going to be blackmailed," a fact Erdogan will have to recognise.

Greece has called the situation a threat to its national security and suspended asylum applications for a month in response.

The push to the Greek border has appeared organised, AP reported, with buses and cars ferrying people from Istanbul, and some refugees at the border saying that Turkish police had told them to go there.

Hashim, a 21-year-old Pakistani migrant who didn’t give a surname said he managed to enter Greece and was sent back to Turkey by Greek soldiers.

“Turk army say ‘Go to the border.’ When we cross Greek border, Greece army take our money, mobile (phones) and say: ‘Go back, go back,’” he told The Associated Press. “If we don’t go back, they will beat us, they will throw our mobiles and money (in) the river. And they remove our clothes. We come here in underwear. It is not human.”

On Thursday, Turkey said it was deploying 1,000 special operations police to prevent Greek border guards from sending back those who managed to cross.

Blame game between Greece and Turkey

On its official website, the Turkish coastguard accused its Greek counterpart of endangering refugee boats, noting that it rescued 97 migrants off of three boats on March 5, which had been left behind by Greece half-sunk.

Mitsotakis called these accusations completely inacceptable, saying "Greece has shown its humanity throughout the entire refugee crisis." He added that his country had opened its houses and hearts for refugees for years.

According to Greek media, Turkish military and police have been supporting migrants in their attempts to illegally cross the border.

Greek state channel ERT showed videos on Sunday, in which Turkish soldiers can allegedly be seen as they are hitting and kicking migrants to push them towards the border.

On Friday, Greek officials accused Turkey of firing tear gas and smoke bombs at their border guards while helping migrants to break through fencing by providing cutters.

A new migration deal?

In a 2016 deal with the EU, Turkey had promised to put an end to illegal migration. In return, Ankara would receive financial support to take care of the refugees it is hosting. Turkey had taken in around 3.6 million refugees from Syria.

Nevertheless, Erdogan insists that his country needs more money to cope with the pressure.

European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn told German newspaper Die Welt that any new support from the EU would be conditional and dependent on the fact that Erdogan's "politics of blackmailing" by sending refugees to the EU "be put to an end."

He added that any further payments would not be as extensive as prior financial support, since "many schools, kindergartens and hospitals for refugees have already been built and don't have to be financed again."

Erdogan will be travelling to Brussels on Monday to find a solution to the ongoing crisis on the Greek-Turkish borders. On Friday he told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the deal needed to be revied.

The Turkish president also intends to re-orient Turkey's relationship with the EU, Die Welt reported, citing unnamed Brussels diplomats.