Winter’s Chill Not Keeping Refugees, Migrants from Greece

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, FILE)

The onset of winter and chilly weather isn’t deterring more refugees and migrants from traveling to Greece, with many now choosing land border crossings with Turkey, daring to cross the cold swirls of the Evros River where many have drowned trying.

The number of arrivals for December, more than 870, was unusually high, officials said, according to Katherine, with human smugglers continuing to send them from Turkey, where they first went to flee war and strife in their own countries in hopes of reaching more prosperous European Union countries but stuck in Greece after Europe closed its borders to them.

That was a jump over the 502 who arrived a year earlier at that time and as they keep coming despite having only the chance of finding asylum in Greece, but with processing applications taking two years or more as the country tries to deal with more than 70,000, including more than 15,000 on islands near Turkey.

Police sources who weren’t identified told the paper it was “worrisome” there have been four separate cases of boats with Afghan nationals arriving at the northern port city of Alexandroupoli in the last two months instead of the islands in the Eastern Aegean.

Officials also said a hike in the number of guards stationed in the Eros border region has also led to an increase in arrests of human traffickers – 38 in December, amid reports there has also been an increase in the number of Turkish nationals crossing there, seeking asylum.

The flow is continuing so far in January, with 207 arrivals on Greek islands in the second week alone and concerns they would just keep on coming faster than can be handled despite transfers of some vulnerable groups to the mainland.