NEWS

Influx via Evros dips as migrants return to Idomeni

STAVROS TZIMAS, YIANNIS ELAFROS

TAGS: Migration

A recent spike in the arrival of undocumented migrants in Greece via the Turkish land border appears to have eased off but further west, Idomeni, which became a sprawling makeshift camp at the peak of the refugee crisis in early 2016, is beginning to see activity again, Kathimerini understands.

Compared to some 4,000 migrants who crossed the land border into Greece in April, arrivals for May are currently in the low hundreds, according to sources.

A border guard in Evros attributed the change to a shift in stance by Turkish authorities, albeit perhaps a temporary one.

“The likeliest scenario is that [the migrants] were stopped by the invisible hand of Turkey, which is negotiating with Europe and flexing its muscles, reminding everyone that only it can control the flow of refugees towards Greece and particularly Evros,” the official said, adding that the number of Turkish guards on the Evros border has increased in recent days.

In Idomeni, meanwhile, locals are reporting increased arrivals from the islands. A local community leader, Xanthi Soupli, told Kathimerini that some 20 migrants, mostly Pakistanis, are arriving every day. They try to scale the wire fence separating Greece from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), she said, noting that hotels in the area that were full of migrants at the peak of the crisis have started receiving refugees from the islands again.

The recent influx from the Greek-Turkish border has put a strain on reception centers in northern Greece. For instance, the camp at Lagadikia near Thessaloniki is currently hosting more than 600 migrants, nearly twice its maximum capacity of 360. Tensions have surged in the facility, which had originally hosted only Syrian families but is now accommodating migrants of various ethnic origins.

Military facilities on the mainland, particularly in northern Greece, being used to accommodate migrants are also overcrowded, hosting 26,649 people – around 3,000 over capacity.

Camps on the Aegean islands also remain seriously cramped. Some 17,000 people are living in state-run facilities, even as a steady stream of new arrivals lands from neighboring Turkey. The situation at the Moria camp on Lesvos is increasingly tense, as some 7,370 asylum seekers and migrants are jostling for space in a facility designed to host a maximum of 3,000 people.

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