By Askin Kiyagan
VIENNA, Austria (AA) – Turkey’s deputy interior minister criticized Greece on Thursday for making baseless and false statements on Ankara’s handling of irregular migrants and called on Athens to fulfill its responsibilities.
Ismail Catakli made the remarks at a conference on migration in Austria’s capital organized by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) where he informed attendees about Turkey’s efforts related to migration and its recent counter-terrorism operation in northern Syria.
"Greece should cooperate [with Turkey] in line with neighboring laws and fulfill its responsibilities instead of…making baseless and untrue statements with false and insufficient information regarding irregular migration," Catakli said, calling on Athens to face this "major problem."
He said Turkey worked extensively to help refugees and shouldered the burden all by itself whereas it was isolated and not sufficiently supported by the international community.
Following recent remarks by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on irregular migrants, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Friday slamming Greece for making "baseless" claims and distorting facts.
The ministry said the number of crossings by irregular migrants into Europe has been reduced by 94% since 2015, when they totaled around 850,000.
“Turkey is hosting more than 4 million externally displaced people. Our Greek counterparts, as well as the international community, should understand that it is not fair for Turkey to solely shoulder the burden of migration, which is a global problem,” it said.
Turkey is the world's top refugee-hosting country and adopted an "open door" policy for Syrians following the eruption of a bloody civil war in 2011.
Since then, over 3.6 million Syrians have fled the war-weary country, taking shelter in Turkey.
*Writing and contribution by Ali Murat Alhas