ATHENS - Expecting Turkey will use the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic to ship more refugees and migrants to Greece in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, land and sea patrols are being beefed up.
The Hellenic Coast Guard is on a special lookout in the Aegean near islands that are the prime destination for human traffickers in Turkey sending refugees and migrants, some 50,000 after the July 7, 2019 snap election win of New Democracy.
Greek officials said Turkey was massing more on the coast, bringing them there by bus in anticipation of once again trying to flood Greek islands, including the possibility of sending them in big cargo ships instead of small craft and rubber dinghies.
The targets are Lesbos, Chios, Kos. Leros and Samos with fears Turkey will duplicate what it tried and failed to do in February, getting migrants across the land border Greece shut down and where riot police and Army units repelled them.
There were even suspicions that some of the migrants on the move were at the Pazarkule camp near the Kastanies border crossing a few weeks ago where they had been stopped before said Kathimerini in a report on Greek forces being on high alert.
The Hellenic Coast Guard and Navy increased the number of their boats while three aircraft from the EU's border patrol Frontex were also dispatched to check the East Aegean sea area between Turkey and Greek islands, the paper said.
The aim of the plan is for boats with migrants to be located while they are still in Turkish territorial waters so that their entry into Greece can be prevented although up to April 15 there were no mass attempts to reach the islands.
The alert will remain high during the run-up to the April 19 Easter holiday with the country locked down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos also said.
“We are taking measures and sending navy ships to the islands to help the Coast Guard,” he said. As for reports that some of the migrants may be infected with Covid-19, he said, “There is a possibility that there are migrants with the coronavirus.”