Turkish smugglers are charging migrants just £11 to help sneak them into the EU via Greece
- Greek PM Mitsotakis hit out at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today
- He accused him of allowing thousands to storm Greece’s sea and land borders
- Turkish officials are allegedly allowing people smugglers to operate freely
- The traffickers are said to have slashed prices for passage to £11 per person
EU leaders stepped up their attack on Turkey over the new migration crisis yesterday, branding the country an ‘official trafficker of migrants’.
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis hit out at Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan for allowing thousands to storm Greece’s sea and land borders in recent days.
It came amid reports that people smugglers are being allowed to operate freely by Turkish officials and as a result have slashed their prices for getting migrants into the EU to as little as £11. They usually charge hundreds of pounds.
Greek police in riot gear advance to push migrants aways after minor clashes at the port of Mytilene on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece on Monday
Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis (left) hit out at Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) for allowing thousands to storm Greece’s sea and land borders in recent days
A riot police officer shouts at a migrant as police tries to disperse a group of migrants outside the port of Mytilene, Greece on Tuesday
One Turkish trafficker, who gave his name as Semih, said: ‘It has become something allowed from our Turkish side. In the past we used to get them across for $200 or $300 (£150-£230) per person and now we do it for $15 (£11).’
On Monday it emerged that a child died after a boat capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos, which hosts Europe’s biggest migrant camp.
Mr Mitsotakis accused his Turkish counterpart of using refugees and migrants as ‘pawns’ in a bid to ‘blackmail’ the West into giving him military support for his conflict with neighbouring Syria.
A man warms his hands by a fire at a site where refugees and migrants from various countries wait on the Turkish shoreline of the Evros River while waiting to cross by boat to Greece on Tuesday in Edirne, Turkey
But he also tore into Brussels for failing to reform asylum policy since the last migration crisis in 2015-16, saying the latest surge should act as a ‘wake-up call’. The bloc is no better prepared for sudden influxes than four years ago, he added.
Mr Mitsotakis held crisis talks with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council president Charles Michel yesterday before the trio visited the Greece-Turkey border to witness the chaos.
He accused Mr Erdogan of tearing up a treaty signed with Brussels in 2016 under which four million refugees living in Turkey receive billions of pounds in aid in return for him stemming migration flows.
He said: ‘This is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda and to divert attention from the horrible situation in Syria.
‘We stand ready to support Turkey in dealing with its refugee problem and find a solution to the Syria conundrum, but not under these circumstances.
‘Unfortunately, Turkey has become the official trafficker of migrants to the EU and Greece does not accept this situation. We are sending a very clear signal that migrants and refugees cannot be used as instruments, as pawns in a geopolitical game.’
Migrants hold placards as they demonstrate, waiting at the buffer zone in front of the Pazarkule border crossing to Greece, in Edirne on Tuesday
Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, also waded in, saying: ‘The people are being used by president Erdogan as a political football, as weapons and as instruments of pressure on the European Union.’
Mr Erdogan’s provocative actions were sparked by the killing of dozens of Turkish troops in an air strike in north-west Syria last week. He is appealing for military support from Nato and European allies to assist in his conflict with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
But his call has fallen on deaf ears, prompting him to throw open Turkey’s borders. Mr Erdogan will meet Russian president Vladimir Putin, who backs Assad, in Moscow tomorrow in a bid to broker a ceasefire.
Countries on the EU’s external border, such as Italy and Greece, want other member states to take a bigger share of arrivals so they are not left bearing the brunt.
Greece said it had stopped 24,000 illegal attempts by migrants to storm its borders since Saturday. Charities also recorded 1,700 new arrivals on the five Aegean Greek islands near Turkey – Lesbos, Chios, Kos, Leros and Samos.
Mrs von der Leyen unveiled a £600million aid package to help Greece deal with the migrants.
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