Refugees eye other routes on country’s west coast

Refugees eye other routes on country’s west coast

Port and police authorities in western Greece have been put on alert after a report in German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that smugglers and migrants are searching for new entry points to Europe after the shutdown of the Balkan corridor into the continent.

Authorities believe that Patra port and the shores of the western coast of Aitoloakarnania will be the most likely points from which refugees will attempt to cross the sea to Italy.

The German newspaper said traffickers are using flimsy, unseaworthy boats to transfer refugees to Italy in a journey beginning from Antalya and Mersin on the Turkish coast, and even Attica, at a cost ranging between 3,000 and 5,000 euros.

According to reports, the numbers of refugees in makeshift accommodation near the new port of Patra have increased significantly over the last 20 days, spurring authorities to step up security.

The relatively inaccessible coastline of Aitoloakarnania has been used in the past to traffic migrants, prompting authorities to increase efforts to monitor the Athens-Corinth and Antirio-Ioannina highways.

Meanwhile, migrant arrivals in Greece have dropped significantly in recent days after a deal struck between the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe. On Sunday, less than 20 arrived on Lesvos.

However, the bottleneck at Idomeni on the northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) remains, with 13,000 asylum seekers still camping out in deplorable conditions, while the number at Piraeus port has reached 5,000.

The government, which last week pledged the creation of new shelters for up to 30,000 refugees by the end of next week, has been trying to evacuate the refugees to other shelters around the country, but many refuse to leave, hoping the border crossing into FYROM will eventually open. But this appears highly unlikely after the parliament in Skopje voted to keep its borders with Greece and Serbia closed until December 31, citing a “crisis situation.”

Giorgos Kyritsis, the spokesman for the government’s coordination committee on migration, told Skai TV Monday that the migrants at Piraeus and Idomeni will be persuaded to leave “with information and dignity.” Only 800 have so far been transferred from Idomeni.

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