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Former US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Ursula von der Leyen, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. Photo: DoD; Lisa Ferdinando. Wikimedia Commons
Istanbul

Provocative statements from Turkey against Greece continue

The Turkish Minister of Defense, Hulusi Akar during his visit to a Turkish naval base, spoke of "harassment in the Aegean" in recent days, which he described as a "very serious challenge", adding that he could not "explain them".

Published: May 25, 2020, 6:29 am

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    “Despite our efforts, patience and neighbourly intentions, I cannot explain the harassment in the Aegean in recent days. They are a very serious challenge […] We are making efforts to resolve the issues in the context of dialogue and mutual understanding and we will continue in the same direction,” he said.

    He added that “in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean there is no hope of survival of any plan that ignores Turkey”, adding that “we will do everything to defend our interests and rights and this is not a threat”.

    His comments were preceded by statements by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who in a television interview said that as soon as the Coronavirus pandemic blows over, there will be a new wave of immigration to Greece.

    “There were refugees in the refugee camp who went to the border with Greece. Due to the pandemic, this stopped. I do not say this as a threat, but after the pandemic, the refugees will definitely want to leave and go there,” the Turkish Foreign Minister said.

    He added that the issue of refugees was a common issue with the EU and that the agreement on customs clearance should be updated and that visas for Turkish citizens should be released, and called for more co-operation in the fight against terrorism.

    “We sent the following message that on the occasion of the pandemic, if you say that we do not need Turkey, then you should know that the pandemic will end, but the refugee issue will continue for many years. Then please don’t knock on our door,” he concluded.

    Last year, the Greek Shipowners’ Association donated ten new maritime boats to the Greek coastguard in a bid to halt illegal immigration to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

    The group donated Rafnar 1100 Cabin Bulletproof speedboats designed in Iceland and built in Greece. The vessels are armed with 12.7mm machine-guns. The design of the boat makes it self-propelled, all-weather and unsinkable. The vessels have, among other things, thermal cameras, anti-ballistic protection in the cabin and in the windows, while their interior can be adapted for the transport of patients and the injured.

    Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked the Hellenic Shipowners’ Association “for their prompt response to our request to strengthen the Coast Guard”.

    “The donation of 10 new fully equipped boats will essentially help to more effectively control our maritime borders. At a time when I don’t need to tell you, it’s extremely critical. These vessels, from what I have been informed, will be the most modern that the Coast Guard will have, with full equipment, with thermal cameras and with the possibility to respond to the most adverse conditions,” he explained.

    Meanwhile, inspections have begun at 320 Non-Governmental Organizations involved in immigration in Greece.

    The first round of audits by Greece’s National Transparency Authority showed NGOs with revenues of tens of millions of euros, hundreds of employees and accountants – they are the envy of even public limited companies.

    The project that the National Transparency Authority launched with extreme secrecy includes financial scrutiny of the 320 NGOs operating in the field of immigration. These NGOs were handed millions of dollars through national and European programmes and sponsorships, but they have never given an account of their actions or how they work.

    The ultimate goal is to investigate at least 20 percent of the NGOs during the summer, in an effort to bring order to this anarchic situation that has lasted for years.

    The inspections focus, according to information from the independent authority, on ensuring transparency and accountability of European and national resources through which the activities of these bodies are funded. The assessment of the performance of programmes to protect and support migrants is also under scrutiny.

    One NGO created in 2013 started off with 50 employees and suddenly reached 1 050 in 2019. Another organization that five years ago had zero revenue suddenly presented revenue in excess of 23 million euros.

    Notably, all three NGOs active in the field of unaccompanied children, have shown revenues of millions of euros per year: one showed 23 million, the other two more than 10 million euros per year. At the same time, they have many employees, ranging from 700 to more than 1 000 people each. Thus, it was decided to simultaneously control the NGOs and their structures located in the area of ​​Athens.

    The auditors have proceeded to compile on-site audit reports. They have been examining executives and associates of the audited bodies, collecting and seizing documents and digital evidence, such as financial and accounting records, evidence of the implementation of stated programmes, as well as documents for the general proper operation and suitability of the facilities.

    The material from the raids on the three NGOs was sealed and transferred to the forensic laboratories of the Hellenic Police.

    It is worth noting that the specific NGOs that host dozens of unaccompanied children each receive 68 euros per day for each child.

    The goal of the independent authority is to have a complete picture of the NGOs operating in the field of immigration by September.

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