Closer cooperation between Greek and Turkish Coast Guard authorities has led to 11,000 undocumented migrants being prevented from entering Greek borders and returned since the start of the year, data presented by the Merchant Marine Ministry.
Despite that, Greece continues to be inundated by waves of unlawful immigrants, many fleeing the Civil War in Syria and conflicts in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan, while the European Union has been doing less to help.
The ministry said while working with Turkey has helped that as many as 30,000 or more other unlawful immigrants made it into Greece, many coming by water, although mishaps have killed scores of them trying to reach Greek islands.
The data presented Oct. 31 showed that from the start of the year, a total of 29,281 undocumented migrants and 210 suspected traffickers were arrested during 1,063 interceptions.
“We are opposed to the concept of open borders, which is why we have elevated the issue of illegal migration to the top of the European agenda,” Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis told Kathimerini.
The ministry has also responded to the increased inflow of refugees and migrants in the Aegean by taking some 700 coast guard officers off their desk jobs, bringing the total number of officers conducting patrols to 2,500.
A report published last month by the European border agency Frontex showed a 50 percent hike in illegal migration to Greece and Spain in April-June compared with the same period last year.
Arrests at all European Union borders grew by 170 percent in the same period year-on-year, Frontex said.