NEWS

Athens blames Turkey for surge in migrant arrivals

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU

TAGS: Migration

Greece is pointing the finger of blame for the increased numbers of undocumented migrants flowing into the the Evros region from Turkey on the easing of vigilance by Turkish border authorities.

“There is very strong pressure at the Evros border while at the same time direct contact between local authorities in Greece and Turkey has stopped, which is making the problem worse,” a senior official at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry told Kathimerini.

Meanwhile, reports that some 500,000 Afghans have recently entered Turkey from Iran and Iraq have sparked fears they could be heading for Greece.

Athens has lodged complaints with the European Commission and Ankara over the relaxed stance of Turkish authorities which has allowed migrant-smuggling gangs to reportedly “run riot” – the arrest of 30 in the first week of October alone attest to their growing presence in the region.

According to official data, a total of 1,010 people smugglers were arrested in the period spanning January to August while another 180 were nabbed in September.

Last week, Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas told Parliament that 3,300 illegal migrants slipped through the Evros border in 2016, while 5,500 crossed in 2017.

The figure has risen exponentially in 2018, with some 12,000 having so far entered the country.

Kathimerini understands that a representative of the European Commission landed in Ankara Monday and raised the issue with Turkish authorities.

The gangs mainly comprise nationals from Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Many traffickers also transfer undocumented migrants from the Evros region to the northern port city of Thessaloniki using buses.

The dire situation was illustrated in recent days by the arrival of dozens of undocumented migrants at Thessaloniki’s central Aristotelous Square, where they set up camp. Around 75 were temporarily moved by police to the Diavata camp on the city’s outskirts, from where they will be moved on to other shelters.

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