Migrant wave unabated as EU makes deal with Turkey
Thousands of migrants arrived on Greek islands on Monday, just a day after Turkey pledged to help curb an influx of people heading through its territory to Europe via Greece at a landmark European Union summit.
After a lull of a few days, the number of arrivals picked up again over the weekend with more than 5,000 people arriving on Lesvos alone in the past two days, fueling concern among authorities who remain ill-equipped to handle the influx.
“It is clear that the dispatches from the other side have started again,” Christina Kalogirou, regional governor for the Northern Aegean, told Kathimerini.
Around 6,000 migrants were on the island on Monday, awaiting identification, while another 3,000 arrived at Piraeus from the Aegean islands.
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, authorities in the country’s northwest on Monday rounded up some 1,300 migrants purportedly preparing to travel to Greece. According to Anadolu, the migrants were detained in Ayvacik, a crossing point for Lesvos.
Reports that Turkish authorities have cracked down on migrant smuggling came just a day after Turkey and EU leaders agreed to revive the country’s long-stalled bid to join the 28-member bloc in exchange for help in dealing with an ongoing refugee crisis.
A key element of Sunday’s deal was the approval of 3 billion euros in funding for Turkey to start tackling the refugee crisis. The money is partially intended to boost the living standards of would-be migrants so that they do not attempt the crossing from Turkey to Greece.
Another sweetener offered by EU officials is the prospect of visa-free travel to Europe’s Schengen zone within a year if Turkey meets the conditions of tightening its borders in the east to migrants from Asia.
Most migrants who make it to Greece from Turkey attempt to continue their journeys along the so-called Balkan migrant trail in the hope of reaching countries in Central or Northern Europe.
But several countries on that trail have tightened their borders or have built fences to keep migrants out. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia started building a fence along its border with Greece over the weekend.
The move has fueled fears that thousands of migrants will become trapped in Greece.