Migrant Surge Overwhelms Greek Islands (Photos)

In this early Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 photo, an Iraqi girl is wrapped in a thermal blanket after being transferred from a dinghy onto a Greek coast guard patrol boat during a rescue operation near the eastern Aegean Sea island of Samos. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

SKALA, Greece (AP) — Greece’s eastern islands are struggling to cope with a surge in arrivals of migrants and asylum-seekers that has undermined efforts to ease severe overcrowding at refugee camps.

The number of people reaching Lesbos, Samos and other Greeks islands in the eastern Aegean Sea is the highest since the European Union reached a 6 billion-euro agreement in 2016 to prevent migrants from leaving the coast of Turkey and heading to the EU.

The surge started before Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, but there are concerns that it could grow much bigger. Since the offensive began last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to quell European criticism by warning that he could “open the gates” and send more than 3 million Syrian refugees to Europe.

Dinghies carrying migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere are reaching the islands despite enhanced coast guard patrolling in recent weeks supported by the Greek military.

In this early Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 photo, refugees and migrants are transferred from their dinghy onto a Greek coast guard patrol boat during a rescue operation near the eastern Aegean Sea island of Samos. The 23 people from Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Iran had set out from nearby Turkey. They were taken to a camp on Samos. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

This is exacerbating problems at crowded refugee camps. A deadly fire at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos on Sept. 29 triggered riots at the site, which is at 400% capacity.

The Greek government promised to accelerate transfers to the mainland and expand the network of camps there. But those transfers have so far been outnumbered by new arrivals on the islands.

Human rights group Amnesty International has described Moria as “overcrowded and unsafe” and urged other European Union countries to help Greece settle asylum-seekers.

Authorities fear that if the arrival numbers remain high through October, a winter crisis will be difficult to avoid.

Greece’s new conservative government says it also plans to detain migrants without the right to request asylum and wants to resume deportations back to Turkey under terms detailed in the 2016 EU-Turkey deal.

___
By PETROS GIANNAKOURIS Associated Press

In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2019 photo, exhausted Afghan youths sleep on the ground near the town of Madamados after their arrival with other migrants and refugees on a rubber boat from Turkey, at Lesbos Island, Greece. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Saturday Oct. 5, 2019 photo, 6 day-old Mohamed Helale from Syria who was born in Greece is seen inside a tent at the Moria refugee and migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.( AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this Friday Oct. 4, 2019 photo, 38-year-old Abdul Hanoi from Afghanistan sits next to his daughter Yesna outside their tent in a makeshift refugee and migrant camp on the fringes of the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 photo, people use the public wash area, in front of a pile of garbage bags at a makeshift refugee and migrant camp next to the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 photo, migrants and refugees carry their belongings as they disembark from a ferry at the port of Piraeus, near Athens. Greek authorities have accelerated efforts to move thousands of migrants deemed to be vulnerable from the overcrowded Moria camp on the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos to camps on the mainland.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this early Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 photo, a Frontex coast guard counts migrants and refugees in the tiny harbor of Skala Sikamias, on the Greek island of Lesbos. They were part of a group of people, mostly from Afghanistan, rescued by a Frontex patrol vessel as they were trying to cross from nearby Turkey in a plastic boat. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this early Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 photo, newly-arrived migrants and refugees look out from a van at the harbor of Skala Sikamias, on the Greek island of Lesbos. The new arrivals were rescued by a Frontex patrol boat off Lesbos after crossing over rom the nearby Turkish coast. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 photo, a Syrian refugee prays next to tents at the perimeter of the overcrowded refugee and migrant camp at Vathy on the island of Samos, Greece. The camp currently hosts more than seven times its capacity. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available