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Turkey Accused of Allowing Migrants to ‘Surge’ into Europe as Europol Tracks 65,000 People-Smugglers

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Turkey has been accused of allowing migrants to “surge” into Greece amid a dispute over EU funding, as Europol reveals they are tracking some 65,000 people-smugglers.

Greece was on the frontline at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, with over 800,000 arriving from Turkey by sea over the course of the year.

The influx was reduced dramatically after the European Union agreed to transfer some 3 billion euros to the Turkish government to stem the influx, but Ankara has been accused of loosening its borders again and allowing over 5,000 migrants to enter Greece over the first two months of 2018.

The surge came after it was revealed that Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are arguing with the European Commission over whether another 3 billion euros should come from the bloc’s central budget or national budgets.

After days without any new arrivals on the Greek island of Chios, 177 migrants landed on its beaches on Wednesday, prompting an official at the Greek Citizens’ Protection Ministry to say that the incident “clearly proves that the Turkish president controls the flows toward Greece and, by extension, to the European Union”.

It is believed the Turks are attempting to send a message to prevaricating European governments about the consequences if their money is not delivered.

Daniel Esdras, of the UN’s normally pro-mass migration International Organization for Migration, has commented that despite “all its problems and flaws” the EU-Turkey deal is necessary to protect Europe’s borders.

“If it breaks down, then Greece would be doomed,” he warned.

The migrant dispute comes at a time of real tension between Turkey, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus, with the Islamist-led country stepping up its violations of Greek airspace and territorial waters, and preventing European ships from prospecting for oil in Cypriot waters.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, clearly anticipating an escalation in hostilities, has struck a defiant tone, saying: “Our opponent’s provocations, threats and insults don’t scare us. Let them claim an inch [of Greek land], if they dare. As Greeks, united, we will beat them.”

It is within this febrile atmosphere that Europol, the EU’s supranational police agency, has revealed the stunning scale of the criminal migrant-smuggling networks Europe is up against, with some 65,000 smugglers being tracked.

This is twice as many as were operating at what was supposed to be the height of the crisis, with Europol Migrant Smuggling Centre chief Robert Crepinko warning that people-smuggling is “still a booming business” worth billions of euros and “there will be no quick wins”.

How the authorities will be able to tackle a network so vast in the event of the Turkey-EU deal breaking down, or Greco-Turkish relations further deteriorating into outright violence, remains to be seen.

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