Some 40,000 more refugees and migrants came to Greek islands over four months, most after New Democracy took power in July 7 snap elections, with the government trying to deal with a reignited crisis Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister, Giorgos Koumoutsakos told SKAI TV.
Technically violating a 2016 swap deal the European Union made with Turkey – which allowed human traffickers to keep sending them, the government is going to move thousands off islands to the mainland and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his goal is to send back 20,000 to Turkey who aren’t eligible for asylum, for which virtually all have applied.
New Democracy’s toughening of asylum procedures and plans to speed applications but also deportations was criticized by human rights groups who don’t want anyone returned and said the policy should be more lenient.
Frustration over delayed asylum applications has led to frequent tension between ethnic groups and with riot police called in to quell trouble with some 78,000 refugees and migrants in detention centers and camps boiling over, including more than 33,000 on Aegean islands.
In the northern town of Yiannitsa, a few dozen local residents tried to block the transfer of 150 to empty hotels, leading to police being called in and the asylum seekers take to the hotels in coaches, said Naftemporiki.
On the Dodecanese island of Kos, local residents, supported by the municipality’s administration, blocked the main port to prevent the arrival of third country nationals that had first landed on other, smaller Greek isles from the opposite Turkish coast.
That came after two Greek Navy vessels took 795 from Lesbos, the island holding the most, to the mainland of Elefsina, set to be taken to 30 other sites around the country with the situation becoming overwhelming and the EU doing almost nothing to help.
Meanwhile, one fatality and five injuries were reported when a vehicle carrying 14 undocumented immigrants crashed into the guardrails on the Egnatia motorway and overturned on the pavement between the cities of Kavala and Thessaloniki.
Talking to SKAI TV, Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos emphasized that “…Greece cannot accept an unlimited number of migrants and refugees…” but is doing so anyway with Turkey, without any evidence, claiming that boats carrying refugees and migrants were pushed back.
The new crisis has been a setback for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, rating high in surveys for trying to lure investors and spur an economic recovery from a 9 1/2-year economic and austerity crisis but poorly for his handling of the refugees and migrants, with human rights groups upset he is toughening standards for asylum and speeding deportations as well too.