Greece Wants to Slow Flow of Refugees, Migrants from Turkey

Αssociated Press

File- Greek authorities at the scene, on the port of Preveza, northwestern Greece, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Greece's coast guard says 12 migrants have been found dead in the Ionian Sea and 21 others have been rescued after their boat took in water and sank. Searchers are looking for more survivors. (Andriana Soldatou/ via AP)

ATHENS - Greece’s New Democracy government is going to change tack to deal with the surge in refugees and migrants coming from Turkey, after going to that country to flee war, strife and economic conditions in their homelands, by tying to reduce their numbers.

That’s in response to a growing chorus of complaints from officials and residents of overwhelmed Greek islands near Turkey which have more than 50,000 in overcrowded detention centers and camps, where frequent violence breaks out between ethnic groups and with riot police called in to quell the trouble.

Greece is besieged with nearly 100,000 refugees from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria where fleeing war makes them eligible for asylum, as well as from other countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa as well as Pakistan who are not and subject to being sent back to Turkey first.

Only about 2,000 have been returned under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union and another nearly 50,000 have come to Greece since the new government was elected in July 7, 2019 snap polls.

New Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis said the plan of attack now would be to slow the flow coming, mainly to islands as Turkey lets human traffickers operate, although he didn’t say how as the Coast Guard and EU border patrol Frontex haven’t been able to do that yet.

Mitarachi was visiting the islands of Samos and Lesvos to get reaction to government plans which also include speeding asylum applications and deportations but didn’t explain how the scheme to stop or slow more from coming would work.