Migration Min Mitarachi: Effort underway to send back migrants on Turkish-flagged vessel

Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi on Monday said efforts were underway to repatriate the Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals that arrived on board a Turkish-flagged freighter rescued on Sunday.

Mitarachi said that “for me it is a top priority to agree with the Ambassadors of Pakistan and Bangladesh” so that “the persons not entitled to international protection be returned”, while he also asked for EU to take action.

According to migration ministry sources, of the 375 passengers on board the freighter, who have been transferred to the reception and indentification centre on the island of Kos, 250 are from Pakistan or Bagladesh. Another 112 are from Afghanistan and the rest are from Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Egypt.
Mitarachi said that 140 claim to be minors and that the government has “asked the International Organisation for Migration to send a medical team specialising in age assessement” to verify their claims.

The Turkish-flagged freighter suffered engine failure while sailing in international waters near the island of Crete. Mitarachi pointed out that “Greece responded immediately because the vessel was stranded in the Greece search-and-rescue region”.

He also said that Greece had immediately initiated efforts to inform Turkey and the EU of the incident but Turkey had refused to take back the vessel, even though it had clearly set sail from Turkey, while “there was no specific support capability from the EU”.
Mitarachi is scheduled to visit Turkey on Monday at the invitation of Turkey’s interior minister.