Despite the fact that "active border protection over the last 3 years has led to a vertical decline in victims in the Aegean, no loss of human lives can be accepted," said Greek Migration & Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis at Paphos, Cyprus, on Saturday, following the 4th meeting of the Ministers of Interior and Migration of the MED5 Summit (Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta), it was reported on Saturday.
For any loss of life, he added, "there is accountability," before answering a question by Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) about the recent incidents of migrants' vessels sinking off the islands of Lesvos and Kithira, about which he pointed out that that "it is impossible that Turkish authorities cannot locate sailing vessels that are loaded up with 100-200 migrants at Turkish ports and sail off towards Italy."
The minister then continued to note that "Turkey has made a commitment since 2016 to prevent any illegal departures. We learned from the tragic incident in Lesvos that the migrant's boat -usually steered by people with no experience at sea- was protected from the high waves for most of the journey by Turkish fishing boats, which, when the boat entered well into Greek territorial waters, they withdrew and left this boat exposed to the powerful waves in harsh weather conditions,'' while also expressing his personal regret and the Greek government's dismay at the loss of human life in the Aegean.
He pointed out that ''the EU must act, to impose on Turkey what it has agreed upon: the implementation of the joint statement of 2016. The Hellenic Coast Guard fights every single day to protect human lives at sea, and we systematically rescue people."
The Joint Declaration of the Ministers of MED5 in detail:
"We, the Ministers of Interior, Migration and Asylum of Cyprus, Greece, Malta, and Spain, have concluded the following elements in relation to the internal and external dimensions of the European migration policy, as part of a holistic approach for an effective asylum and migration management:"
"We express our appreciation for the joint Roadmap of the rotating Presidencies of the Council, and the European Parliament on reaching a comprehensive and balanced agreement on the Pact on migration and asylum, in coordination with the Commission, and reaffirm our readiness to enhance cooperation for the promotion of the common values and principles of the Union, including the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility."
"We reiterate our undivided commitment in fulfilling our obligations in line with international law and the EU acquis, in particular in relation to our responsibilities with regards to the Union’s external borders."
"We call upon the Commission and the Council to finally acknowledge the increased duties assigned to front-line Member States and the additional tasks arising in the field of migration management, reception, asylum, and integration, by introducing swift and effective measures of fair burden sharing for the whole of the EU, thus ensuring a proper balance between solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility."
"We expect the Commission and fellow Member States to take in due consideration the specificities that result from geographical conditions and geopolitical developments in relation to front-line Member States, including the impact of sea borders, disembarkations, and SAR operations. In this regard it is essential to provide for an effective predictable and mandatory solidarity mechanism that reflects the needs on the ground. Assurances are required that the needs identified will be met through the solidarity contributions. The emphasis should be placed on border management, through enhanced surveillance in origin and prevention of irregular crossings."
"There should be greater emphasis on border management at the external borders of the Union, through enhanced pre-frontier surveillance along all migratory routes and prevention of irregular crossings, including on the Green Line in the case of Cyprus, which must be adequately addressed, due to the special conditions that apply, despite the fact that the “ Green Line” does not constitute an external border of the EU."
"In view of the ongoing aggression against Ukraine, but also the overall instability in the extended neighborhood, the Union's external borders must be protected from hybrid threats, and instrumentalization tactics by some neighboring countries."
"The EU needs to remain consistent towards all our partners, investing in developing substantial and long-term partnerships, notably with key countries of origin and transit in order to cooperate with them in preventing irregular migratory flows, and operate effective returns of those nationals who no longer fulfil the conditions of stay in the Member States. We recall the importance of addressing all migratory routes, including emerging new routes from the Middle East, in a whole-of-route and comprehensive approach."
"There is also an urgent need to assess the actual conditions in those countries of origin and transit which are currently considered unsafe, and from which large migratory flows towards the EU originate. In this manner, we should ensure that available resources are channeled to those who really need protection."
"We encourage all actors to engage in an honest dialogue with the aim to create a truly common European asylum and migration system, based on the genuine and required balance between solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, as enshrined in the founding Treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Having reaffirmed the political will to work towards an agreement on the Pact before the end of the current legislative term, as agreed in the joint roadmap with the European Parliament, we should ensure progress on the negotiations respects a balanced approach. We welcome the discussion launched by the Presidency on fair sharing and flexible responsibility and call for tangible progress in this respect."
"In this perspective, the MED5 countries look forward to the EU Home Affairs meeting on the 14th of October, also with regard to assessing current developments and challenges in the field of asylum and migration."