Jihadists exacerbate refugee influx in Aegean

The activities of Jihadists in both Syria and Iraq have intensified the flow of desperate refugees to a greater extent than originally anticipated and have increased the pressure on islands in the Aegean where some 80 percent of undocumented immigrants are believed to have come from Syria, Kathimerini understands.

According to diplomatic sources, about 1 million Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey over the past six months. A large number of these refugees have been transferred to the coastal region of Izmir, at the behest of Turkish authorities, and there are fears that many are attempting the short but risky crossing by smuggling boat to Greece.

Already several islands in the eastern Aegean are feeling the brunt of increased migrant flows.

Greek coast guard authorities intercepted 7,967 immigrants off Lesvos in the first nine months of this year, 6,351 off Samos and 4, 440 off Chios.

Sources told Kathimerini that Turkish smuggling networks based in Izmir are very well organized, while a new racket is being set up on the Turkish coast opposite the island of Kos.

Foreign intelligence agencies have asked the Greek Police and coast guard for details about the criminal networks operating on the European Union’s eastern external borders.

Last week the Greek office of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) appealed to the European Union to boost support for Greece and other southern European countries struggling with a growing influx of would-be immigrants, reporting that arrivals on islands in the Aegean have tripled over the past year.

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