European and Greek authorities said Tuesday they were encouraged by the decrease in the number of daily arrivals on the Greek islands from Turkey in the last week. Meanwhile clashes broke out again between riot police and asylum seekers at the Idomeni camp next to the country’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Around 700 refugees had arrived by Tuesday evening on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos. The number was higher than previous days but still represents a slightly decreased flow compared to two weeks ago. On Monday, there were 161 arrivals while on Sunday less than 20 arrived.
The overall decrease in arrivals in recent days was hailed as “encouraging” by the European Commission’s official spokeswoman on issues of internal affairs and migration, Natasha Berto, who said that returns to Turkey of migrants and refugees whose asylum applications are rejected – under the deal with Ankara to stem migrant flows – will begin on April 4.
She also said that European Union border control agency Frontex had received offers from 19 EU member-states to provide 47 workers to help with the return of refugees to Turkey and 497 police officers while EASO, the European Asylum Support Office, has received offers from 16 countries to provide 396 asylum application experts and 22 interpreters.
Meanwhile, tensions at Idomeni border camp flared again on Tuesday when refugees threw rocks at police who tried to evacuate them from a nearby railroad track, where they have been staging daily demonstrations demanding that authorities in FYROM open the border.
According to the latest estimates by the government’s coordinating committee on refugees, there are currently 50,364 migrants in Greece, of whom 11,370 are at Idomeni.