Provocation or honest mistake? Turkey sends Greece senior official with “Northern Cyprus” stamp on passport

EPA / STRATIS BALASKAS

Turkish police official experts arrive at Mytilini port on Lesvos island, Greece, 21 March 2016. The agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey on sending all illegal migrants arriving in Greece back to Turkey, came into force a day earlier. Illegal migrants arriving on Greek shores will be registered and their asylum applications treated on a case by case by the Greek authorities, according to the EU Asylum Procedures Directive and in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Premiere with problems for the arrival of the first 25 Turkish officials on the Greek islands, as occupied “Northern Cyprus” stamp on Greek passport causes unrest.


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25 Turkish liaison officers arrived at the five hotspots on the Greek islands on Sunday to oversee the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement on refugee flows.

The agreement envisions reversing the flow of refugees from Greece to Turkey. In adherence with the provisions of the agreement, the five first refugees left Athens for Turkey on Monday.
All 25 Turkish liaison officers are senior Interior Ministry public officers. Officers will be scattered on the islands of the Eastern Mediterranean on the five hotspots: six will be stationed on the island of Chios, 8 on Lesvos, 5 on Samos, 3 on Leros, and 3 on Kos.

One officer arrived in Chios to address a bilateral diplomatic issue that emerged when it was found that one of the Turkish liaison officers had a TRNC stamp on his passport, that is, stamped with TRNC, that is, the North Cypriot regime in Cyrpus occupied by Turkey since 1974. Such passports are considered invalid by the Greek State much like Iran does not recognize Israeli travel documents.

The problem seems to be temporary. Sources from the Greek Ministry of Internal Affairs suggest the matter was “settled” as Greek authorities issued a laisse passé travel document rather than stamping the liaison officers’ passport. Since government officers do not normally require visa, this was a relatively straightforward resolution.

By the same token, three Greek liaison officers were stationed in Dikili, across Lesvos and two in Cesme, across Chios. Greek liaison officers are police officers who handle refugee returns. By the end of the week, 25 Greek liaison officers will deploy in the ports designated by Turkey to coordinate the return flow of refugees from Greece to Turkey.

With respect to the policy of migrant returns, a senior officer of the Hellenic Police force said that readmission requests are already been drafted for newly arrived refugees and migrants; meanwhile, asylum applications will be examined on a fast track.

On Wednesday, March 23rd there is a meeting between Turkey, Greece, and the European Commission, FRONTEX officials, and the Dutch Presidency to assess the implementation of the agreement concluded on Friday.

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