Crete, Gavdos Will Get More State Aid to Deal with Refugee Arrivals Rise

ATHENS – An uptick in refugee and migrant arrivals with spring’s warm weather making it less risky to cross the Aegean to reach Greek islands has led the New Democracy government to offer extra financial aid and more staff to Crete and its tiny neighbor Gavdos.

Those are trying to deal with a big jump in arrivals from Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan while islands close to Turkey are also bracing for more who use that country as a jumping off point to reach Greece.

Since January, more than 1,180 migrants have arrived on both islands, up from 686 for full-year 2023, Greek Coast Guard data showed. Neither Gavdos nor Crete have migrant reception facilities, said Reuters.


“Crete will not be left alone and even more so Gavdos, which is a very small island with few permanent residents,” Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis said after visiting both. “We are here to help the local community. The resources and the means are there,” he said, although the government is also using every means to keep refugees away.

The European Union in February announced a 7.4 billion euro ($7.95 billion funding package and an upgraded relationship with Egypt, part of a push to stem migrant flows to Europe which was criticized by rights groups.

Greece is, however, also seeking scores of thousands of foreign workers to take jobs Greeks shun, particularly in agriculture and picking crops while about 30,000 asylum seekers are being held in detention centers.

Greece has been a key destination to the EU – which closed its borders – for refugees and migrants mainly from the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015 when nearly 1 million people landed on its islands, causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Thousands of others died at sea, including hundreds – many of them women and children – when an overcrowded boat capsized at sea in international waters near a Greek Coast Guard boat, survivors claiming it was caused by a tow rope trying to pull the vessel away from Greece. A secret investigation has revealed nothing.


Terrified tourists who had to walk along beaches to flee wildfires on the popular island of Rhodes in the summer of 2023 can go back there for vacations now, partly paid by the New Democracy government eager to keep foreign arrivals coming this year.

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