With warmer weather leading more refugees and migrants to keep coming across the sea from Turkey to Greek islands, reports that more of them are using a land border along the Evros River has led the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) to send officers to help patrol the area.
Human traffickers are continuing to operate during a largely-suspended swap deal between the European Union and Turkey which has seen only a relative handful of more than 70,000 refugees and migrants in Greek detention centers and camps sent back after having asylum applications rejected.
That includes some 15,000 stuck on islands with the government sending to the mainland only some in vulnerable categories, such as minors, saying that wholesale transfers are barred under the swap deal that critics said isn’t working anyway.
While scores have drowned trying to make the perilous sea crossing in rickety craft and rubber dinghies, many have also perished in the Evros River, including women and children, daring to make the effort despite the odds.
The decision to dispatch a mobile unit to the region in due course was reached following a visit to Alexandroupoli and Orestiada on April 30 by Europol chief Catherine de Bolle, and Robert Crepinko, the agency’s migrant smuggling expert, said Kathimerini.
The unit will be comprised of specially trained Europol officers with equipment and direct access to the agency’s databases in a bid to help local law enforcement catch traffickers who have stepped up their activity over the Greek-Turkish land border.
“With the mobile unit, inspections can be done in real time, using Europol’s databases,” a police source told the paper although the smugglers are hard to catch and not being stopped outright by Turkish authorities.