Turkey must ‘take responsibility’ for migrants, says Greece

Migrants rest on the Greek Mediterranean island of Lesbo after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey in a dinghy (File/AFP).
Updated 04 October 2019

Turkey must ‘take responsibility’ for migrants, says Greece

  • Turkey must ‘control the migrant flow in the Aegean Sea,’ the conservative Greek leader said
  • The UNHCR announced arrivals by sea from Turkey to Greece increased to over 10,000 in September

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday called on Turkey to “take responsibility” for a renewed wave of migrants to Greece, and for an EU-Turkish deal to be revised so Athens can speed up the return of rejected asylum-seekers.
“Turkey must take responsibility” and “control the migrant flow in the Aegean Sea,” the conservative Greek leader said during a debate in parliament on migration.
Greece has felt under increasing pressure. For the first time since 2016, the country has become the main port of entry into the European Union for migrants and refugees arriving via Turkish shores.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) announced on Tuesday that arrivals by sea from Turkey to Greece, mostly Afghan and Syrian families, increased to 10,258 in September.
It said this was the highest monthly total since 2016, when the European Union reached an accord with Turkey to stem the flow of arrivals.
Turkey has welcomed nearly 3.6 million refugees, the vast majority from neighboring war-ravaged Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened in early September to allow a new wave of migrants to go to the EU if he did not receive more international aid.
Ankara wants to create in Syria a “security zone” so migrants could return there.
But after a deadly fire at an overcrowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on Sept. 29, Athens vowed to return 10,000 migrants who fail asylum requirements to Turkey by the end of 2020.
In four and a half years under the previous left-wing government, Turkey took back fewer than 2,000 people.
Necessary revisions to the EU-Turkey deal to accelerate returns will be discussed at the EU summit later this month.
Mitsotakis insists that most new arrivals to Greece are “economic migrants” from Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa rather than refugees from Syria.


Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

Updated 12 December 2019

Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

  • The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities
  • Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey

PRISTINA: Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.
The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.
One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.
“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person... Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.
The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.
But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.
Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly €100,000 ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.
“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here,” the writer said during a 2014 visit.
“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.
Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.
Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring.”
Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimizing Serb war crimes.
But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.
In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.
Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist.”