Greece Accelerates Moving Refugees, Migrants Off Islands

Migrants and refugees arrive from Lesbos island to the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Monday Oct. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Caught by a late summer and early autumn surge of refugees and migrants landing on already overwhelmed Greek islands, the new New Democracy government is speeding it plans to move even more to the mainland and insisting that Turkey take back 10,000 ineligible for asylum.

There are more than 78,000 in Greece, including some 28,000 on islands near Turkey where they first want fleeing war and strife in their countries, primarily Syria and Afghanistan but also economic conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 500 asylum-seekers arrived early Oct. 3 on ferries from the islands at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, and were being taken in buses to a newly setup camp in northern Greece, said Kathimerini.

An expected incursion by Turkish forces into northeastern Turkey has increased concern in Greece that more refugees may try to reach the European Union following a summer influx in arrivals after New Democracy won July 7 snap elections, ousting the Radical Left SYRIZA.

Transfers to the mainland were expanded to include all five Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea with refugee camps. Turkey has let human traffickers operate during an essentially-suspended swap deal with the EU which closed its borders to refugees and migrants, dumping the problem largely on Greece during a 9 1/2-year economic and austerity crisis that’s still ongoing.

 

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)