ATHENS – Overwhelmed again with refugee and migrant arrivals on islands, sent there by human traffickers in nearby Turkey – and with riots breaking out in detention centers and camps – Greece's new New Democracy government has asked the European Union's border patrol Frontex to help deal with it.
Frontex already assists in sea and border canvassings for people who fled their homelands in the Middle East and other countries and went to Turkey as a jumping-off point to get to Greece and then to more prosperous EU countries before those borders were shut to them.
For the second time in three weeks, Greece asked for the aid, said Kathimerini, although New Democracy veteran politician Dimitris Avramopoulos, who had done little to help during is nearly five years in office, is the EU's migration chief.
Greece has asked Frontex to provide state-of-the-art monitoring equipment – mainly radars and thermal cameras, the paper said, to help track down refugees and migrants on rickety craft and rubber dinghies, seven of whom died in the Aegean trying to reach a Greek island.
The Greek Coast Guard has deployed more than 50 vessels and 1,300 officers in the Aegean as part of an operational plan by the Shipping Minister and a senior government official who wasn't identified told the paper that other EU countries have sent 21 vessels as well as aerial and land surveillance systems in the eastern Aegean, including an Israeli-made unmanned aircraft from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
Greek Coast Guard chief Stamatis Raptis reportedly will go to the Turkish capital Ankara on Oct. 2 to meet his counterpart there after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the sidelines of the United Nations opening in New York, met Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis and talked about ways to slow the incursion.
But that came after Erdogan threatened to send 5.5 million refugees and migrants to Greek islands unless the EU sends another 3 billion euros ($3.28 billion) due as part of a suspended swap deal with the bloc that has seen only a relative handful of those deemed ineligible for asylum in Greece returned.
Shipping Ministry officials said Turkey is generally cooperating despite taut tensions between the countries over Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean that even raised fears of a possible conflict.
Many refugees and migrants have been stopped leaving the Turkish coast, the report said with another unidentified official saying that, “On a daily basis, the Turkish coast guard intercepts or immobilizes between five and seven boats with refugees and migrants within its territorial waters.” The Greek Coast Guard is said to be responding to 30 incidents a deal and rescuing as many as 500 migrants and refugees.
With Greek island detention centers and camps housing more than 28,000 of them, the government is going to move 10,000 to mainland camps but those numbers are being partially offset by constant new arrivals as the crisis has picked up once again.