Migrant influx is down but deal spat fuels fears

Migrant influx is down but deal spat fuels fears

The number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped 90 percent in April, the European Union border agency Frontex said Friday, a sign that an agreement between Turkey and the EU to curb migration has had an impact, though tensions between Ankara and Brussels over Turkey’s reluctance to amend its anti-terrorism laws have fueled fears that the deal will collapse.

According to Frontex, 2,700 people arrived in Greece from Turkey in April, most of them from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, a 90 percent decline from March. Nongovernmental organizations, whose representatives have been helping migrants and refugees on Aegean islands and in northern Greece, reported a similar drop. Meanwhile an increased number of migrants are trying to enter Europe via Italy.

In Athens, however, there are fears that the sharp drop in numbers may reverse soon as a deal between the EU and Turkey to curb migration is wobbling following Ankara’s insistence on its citizens being granted visa-free travel to Europe while it refuses to satisfy EU demands for it to reform its anti-terrorism legislation. The deal involves Turkey taking back the majority of migrants that reach Greece. If it collapses, a lull in arrivals may be reversed. Already the virtually zero influx before Orthodox Easter has picked up, with dozens of migrants now arriving on the islands every day.

Of some 54,000 migrants currently in Greece, nearly 10,000 migrants remain in a makeshift camp in Idomeni, near the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macdonia, with nearly 1,500 at a camp at the port of Piraeus.

Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas has said the Idomeni camp will be evacuated soon but has not given a date. On Friday, he said the Piraeus camp will be cleared by mid-June.

The United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, is on a visit to Greece until Monday to gather information on Greek border management and its repercussions on the human rights of migrants.

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