ATHENS – The COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced the number of refugees and migrants trying to get to Greece from Turkey and officials said the indications are that it will continue.
That was shown in data from the Migration and Asylum Ministry which has been going ahead with plans to build new detention centers and camps on five islands near the coast of Turkey which had allowed human traffickers to keep sending more during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
Arrivals in the first five months of 2021 to the islands and through the Evros land border region fell 68 percent compared to the same period in 2020 when they had fallen as well.
There were only 2,891 arrivals recorded on the Aegean islands and at the Evros outpost, compared to 9,421 in the same period in 2020, the report said.
The numbers of those who remain at reception and identification centers on the islands is decreasing with virtually all seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them.
They fled war and strife and economic hardship in their homelands, going to Turkey as a jumping off point to get to Greece. There are still about 53,705 in Greece, dropping dramatically from 92,463 the year before in the same period.