ATHENS – Scrambling to deal with a resurgence in refugee and migrant arrivals after taking power this summer, Greece’s New Democracy government anticipates another 100,000 will come in 2020, straining resources and overwhelmed with asylum seekers.
They are coming from Turkey, where they first went fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and Syria’s civil war, as well as economic conditions in sub-Saharan Africa and other countries.
Turkey allows human traffickers to keep sending them during an essentially-suspended swap deal with the European Union that has seen only 2,000 of the more than 96,000 in Greece, including some 41,000 in island camps and detention centers, sent back.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is appointing a migration chief to oversee the rekindled crisis, wants to send 20,000 back to Turkey, with no way of forcing that, and move 20,000 to the mainland to offset new arrivals but that’s being resisted by officials and residents in towns where they would be moved.
Almost all are seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them and as Mitsotakis appealed for help which he hasn’t gotten and as the sanctuary seekers just keep coming, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatening to flood the EU with millions more, through Greek islands, as he’s engaged in disputes over energy drilling in the Aegean off Cyprus and claiming Greek seas, including off the major islands of Rhodes and Crete.
The Greek government predicts 100,000 more will arrive from Turkey in 2020, the German news site Deutsche Welle said. “The crisis is happening now, and it is serious,” Manos Logothetis, Greece’s commissioner for migration, told the German Funk media group.
More than 45,000 arrived since New Democracy took office after winning July 7 snap elections, blaming the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA of an open-door policy that encouraged them, as activists said they were being kept in inhumane conditions.
Logothesis said the situation now is even “clearly more critical” for Greece than the 2015 migrant crisis, when hundreds of thousands came through Greece to reach the EU.
To ease the crisis, Logothesis said the government wants to deport 10,000 asylum-seekers to Turkey as soon as possible but needs another 270 asylum case reviewers to speed the process of reviewing applications and sort out those ineligible.
The government plans to replace camps with new detention centers on the islands, which has drawn fire from officials and residents who have grown weary of hosting them and complaining of too little help yet.