More than 1,650 migrants crossed Greece’s Evros river that marks the country’s northeastern border with Turkey in March, despite the high water levels during winter, data from police arrests showed on Friday.
According the police, 1,658 people were detained after entering the country from the river last month, compared with 262 people arrested for illegal entry the same period last year. Most of the arrivals are Syrian and Iraqi families who brave the cold weather to attempt the perilous journey across the border.
Authorities are concerned that numbers will rise further as water levels drop in the coming months and crossing the river will be easier.
Arrivals of refugees and migrants on the islands of the eastern Aegean have also spiked in recent months, with government officials describing the situation as “very difficult,” due to developments in Syria.
On Thursday, the European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos visited the temporary refugee accommodation centre near the village of Ritsona north of Athens and apartments housing refugees in Livadia.
Speaking to journalists after his visit, he said the EU-Turkey statement aimed at reducing migratory flows “is in force and continues to produce results,” but added that “the situation concerning migration remains unstable.” He also called on Greece to speed up returns to Turkey and increase the capacity of pre-departure facilities.