“We must do more to help our European partners with controls on the EU external borders. We have left them alone for too long,” the minister told German Bild am Sonntag newspaper after visiting Greece and Turkey.
Seehofer, a member of the German conservative party, had already pledged more assistance for both nations in the past, yet the promises have remained mere words and have not been translated into acts so far. The options proposed for Greece involve sending migration agents and IT specialists to coach and prepare local staff in the Mediterranean country, as well as enlarging coastal guard forces.
Concerning Turkey, Seehofer said that “it is clear that we cannot manage the future with the resources of the past,” apparently alluding to the 2016 deal between Brussels and Ankara, when Turkey agreed to take back refugees coming to Greece’s coast by boats in exchange for financial aid and Europe taking some refugees directly from the Turkish territory.
The politician’s statements come as 46,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Europe from Turkey by the end of September, which is 23 percent more than over the same period last year, and 25,000 more are expected to come by the end of 2019, according to the newspaper that interviewed him.
However, the figures are still far lower than in 2015 when Europe saw almost one million refugees.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened last September to open refugee floodgates to the EU if Brussels does not help Ankara in its plans to create a 32-kilometer-wide “safe zone” inside northeastern Syria, currently held by the Kurdish YPG militia, considered terrorists by Turkey.
“If you can’t accept this business, we will open the gates. Let the refugees go from there wherever they want,” Erdogan had told Reuters. He also said that the financial assistance his country received from Europe is too few as US$40 billion were already spent in hosting 3.6 million people since the Syrian conflict started.
As of 2019, close to 900,000 asylum seekers in the European Union are waiting to have their claims processed, according to figures from the European statistics office.
“Living in limbo is now the norm for those seeking protection,” said Karl Kopp of Pro Asyl, Germany’s largest pro-immigration advocacy organization, adding that that “means living in the miserable Greek EU hotspots, or being trapped and pushed back at the borders. It means living in a desperate search for protection and human dignity.”