As official figures point to a significant increase in undocumented migrants seeking to enter the European Union, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday described Greece and Italy as “heroic” in their efforts to tackle the problem and pledged additional European support.
In the past week alone, a total of 813 migrants arrived on the Greek islands from neighboring Turkey, according to government figures made public on Friday.
Local reports suggest that conditions at migrant reception centers on Chios and Lesvos are becoming increasingly cramped and unpleasant, as arrivals have spiked due to the good weather and only a handful of migrants are being sent back to Turkey.
As of on Friday, there were 3,767 migrants on Chios and 4,484 on Lesvos.
Chios and Samos have an additional problem as, due to the objections of local residents, they both lack pre-departure centers for migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected.
Police sources attribute the small number of returns to the slow processing of migrants’ asylum applications. One reason for the delay is that the Council of State has yet to rule on the appeals of two Syrians against their return to Turkey on the grounds that the country is unsafe.
Meanwhile there has been an increase in the number of migrants appealing to the European Court of Human Rights against the rejection of their applications for asylum.