Syrian migrant arrivals rise in Aegean

Authorities and residents in the northern region of Evros have told Kathimerini that the influx of undocumented immigrants into the country from the land border with Turkey has virtually stopped following a police crackdown while the number of would-be migrants entering the country illegally via the Aegean has skyrocketed, with some 60 percent of total illegal arrivals coming from strife-torn Syria.

Local authority officials in Evros attributed the radical drop in illegal arrivals to a massively increased police presence, with some 1,800 officers manning the Greek-Turkish land border. ?We?re talking about a 180-kilometer-long border that is finally being guarded,? the deputy prefect for Evros, Gogo Nikolaou, told Kathimerini, noting that local residents are relieved at the change. ?For several weeks now, no migrants have passed through here,? said Paschalis Maniagas, a taverna owner in the border village of Soufli, noting that the change was radical following 20 years of illegal immigrants breaching the land border.

In the Aegean, however, the picture is very different, with dozens of would-be migrants arriving on the islands every day and local authorities there complaining of a lack of personnel, infrastructure and funding to deal with the problem.

Meanwhile statistics released by the Greek police show that 60 percent of immigrants detained in the Aegean and in the northeastern port of Alexandroupoli, in Evros, since the beginning of September are from Syria. In the same period last year, only 1.5 percent of detained migrants were Syrian.

Government officials have repeatedly expressed concern about an influx of refugees from Syria becoming unmanageable for the cash-strapped Greek state. An estimated 250,000 Syrians have fled the strife in their homeland.

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