ATHENS – Greece’s insistence it won’t allow any more refugees and migrants into the country was followed by action, the New Democracy government saying it has kept out some 40,000 this year along the northern border with Turkey.
That’s near the Evros River site where Greece also extended an anti-refugee wall, leading some trying to enter the country to try to cross the perilous river where many have drowned trying.
The New Arab reported that Greece is blaming Turkey for not containing some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.
Turkey allows human traffickers to keep sending them in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, for which Turkey hasn’t been sanctioned while accusing Greece of pushing back refugees and migrants.
Refugees and migrants prefer trying to reach five Greek islands in the Aegean near Turkey’s coast but there have been stepped-up patrols trying to repel them along with more guards along the land border.
Greece’s Civil Protection Minister, Takis Theodorikakos told SKAI TV about the efforts to keep out people seeking asylum after the EU closed its borders to them, dumping the problem on Greece, Malta, Italy and Spain mostly.
“We effectively repel any threat to our country, to our borders” Theodorikakos said, saying the refugees and migrants were trying to enter lawfully – as they have been doing since 2015, with Greece holding about 100,000 in detention camps as they await word on sanctuary applications.
He also sent a message to Turkey, saying it is not “allowed to tolerate traffickers of desperate people, nor to foster such situations,” but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated he doesn’t care.
A migration ministry source said migration flows to all of Greece in the first four months of 2022 were nearly 30 percent higher than in the same period last year, the report said.
In March 2020, Greece added more border patrols and installed cameras, radar and a 40-kilometre (25-mile) steel fence over 5 meters (16 feet) high in some areas.
But more than 3,000 asylum seekers have made it into Greece so far this year, including more than 1,100 in May alone, the Civil Protection Ministry said, the warmer weather generally seeing more people coming.
Earlier, Greece warned it would keep out any more though after seeing a spike in entries and attempts and with those coming from Turkey more likely to take a chance on using rubber dinghies to get to Greek islands.
About a dozen vessels with hundreds of migrants on board have attempted unsuccessfully to cross from Turkey’s coast to the Greek islands over a two-day period late in May.
The coast guard said more than 590 people had tried to cross into the country by sea within a few hours, said the news agency Reuters on an upsurge in attempts coinciding with Greece trying to keep out all of them.
“We won’t allow anyone to enter Greece illegally either from Evros or through the islands. Let everyone realize this,” Theodorikakos said on the Greek ANT1 TV channel about it.
About 11,000 migrants entered Greece through the Greek-Turkish land border in the region of Evros or through the Aegean islands in the first four months of the year, 25 percent higher than a year ago, the report said.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s pro-government The Daily Sabah newspaper that’s a propaganda mouthpiece for Erdogan and echoes his words and policies said that Greece pushed back 94 migrants, including 30 children, stuck on on islet.
The irregular migrants, identified as Syrian nationals, contacted Human Rights 360 and the Greek Council for Asylum Seekers organizations about the situation, the paper also said.
The NGOs then informed Greek authorities to rescue the migrants from the islet they were stuck on and submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to issue a temporary injunction, which was accepted by the court on May 25, the paper’s report also said.
The paper said instead of being rescued that the migrants were pushed back, beaten, some stripped of their clothing and having their mobile phones and personal belongings confiscated but didn’t provide any proof.
Greece has been criticized by a growing chorus of human rights groups, activists and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) of pushing back refugees and migrants, as has Turkey’s Coast Guard, which was denied by Greece’s government.