ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece said on Tuesday it had no plan to carry out joint sea patrols with neighboring Turkey to stem an influx of migrants and refugees into Europe.
A record 400,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece this year from nearby Turkey, most fleeing war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and hoping to reach wealthier northern Europe.
Many others have died at sea while making the short but perilous crossing on flimsy rubber boats. The member states of Europe, meanwhile, have struggled to agree on a strategy to control the flow of people.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday suggested that Greek and Turkish coast guard and navy team up to crack down on traffickers that migrants are turning to in their effort to reach Europe.
“Greece ... never considered assigning to its navy or armed forces in general the task of confronting refugees of war, and nor can it even discuss the novel ideas expressed lately, such as that of joint Greek-Turkish patrolling of maritime borders,” foreign ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras said in a statement.
He said that Greece wants to cooperate with Turkey to improve the management of migrant inflows and crack down on trafficking but that this could be done mainly by exchanging information or sending back migrants who arrive without documentation.
Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas called on the EU to treat Turkey generously and offer it “incentives and rewards” including financial support to accommodate refugees there.
U.N. refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres was in Athens on Monday and questioned the European Union’s strategy of building more camps in Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe.
Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Hugh Lawson