Efforts to crack down on illegal immigration from Greece to other member-states in Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel zone are paying off, sources in the Greek Police (ELAS) have told Kathimerini, noting that 5,633 undocumented migrants were arrested at the country’s 25 airports from January through October this year – a figure which is more than double the 2,445 arrests made in 2017.
“We expanded our inspections from the departure gates to all indoor areas and the airport perimeters, where we had observed meetings taking place between smugglers and irregular migrants,” an ELAS officer told Kathimerini.
“We also conducted inspections at taxi stands and airport bus stops at regional airports,” he added.
The biggest number of arrests in the first 10 months of this year, 1,511, were made at the airport of Iraklio on the island of Crete, followed by the northern city of Thessaloniki with 1,150 and Athens at a distant third with 402.
The islands also appear to be popular among smugglers, as 185 undocumented migrants were stopped in Kos, 160 in Cephalonia, 148 in Rhodes and 134 in Samos from the start of the year until the end of October.
“The smuggling rackets usually choose regional airports that get a lot of traffic and direct charter flights to numerous European cities,” another source said.
ELAS’s increased measures were introduced in response to a decision by German authorities in November last year to conduct much stricter checks on passengers arriving into the country from Greece in a bid to root out travelers using false papers after a reported spike in such incidents.
Germany stopped the stricter checks in May.