September 12, 2019 - 18:41 AMT
Germany urges Greece to step up migrant deportations to Turkey

Germany's Interior Ministry on Thursday, September 12 called for Greece to step-up deportations to Turkey, as well as for stronger efforts in stemming the flow of illegal crossings to Greek islands in the first placeDeutsche Welle reports.

Stephan Mayer, the parliamentary secretary of the Interior Ministry, said, "We urgently need to make progress in small repatriations to Turkey, to improve the deteriorating conditions at certain hot spots on the islands."

Speaking with the Funke Mediengruppe news publisher, Mayer described the situation on the Greek destinations closest to Turkey as "very difficult."

More and more migrants have been crossing to Greece in recent weeks, overwhelming the already strapped local services.

Greece's new conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had earlier praised deportation efforts, saying they were improving, however, the EU Commission has said there was still much more work to be done.

Mayer insisted that there be a more "comprehensive implementation" of a 2016 EU-Turkey migration pact meant to keep migrants from taking the often perilous journey to Greece. At least 1,163 people died during the crossing between March 2015 and March 2016.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told DW that he had "spoken with my Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu this week and reminded him that the European Union was honoring its parts of the EU-Turkey deal, and we have to assume Turkey is too."

The pact, meant to curtail human trafficking and prevent deaths in the Aegean Sea, included billions of euros in aid to Ankara and the agreement that refugees be immediately returned to Turkey.

Since that deal was struck, only 1,904 people have been deported to Turkey, while 24,348 Syrians who arrived in Europe via Turkey have been settled in EU countries.

The government has said Merkel spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the situation over the phone on Wednesday, following a threat from Erdogan on Saturday that he would reopen the borders to Europe for Syrian refugees.