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Society

Greek Coast Guard Refugee Patrols Push Human Traffickers to Italy

September 8, 2020

Stepped-up patrols in the East Aegean to keep refugees and migrants from reaching islands near Turkey's coast have reportedly forced human smugglers to try to get them to Italy instead to avoid being caught.

The favorite targets were Lesbos, already holding more than 18,000 people in the notorious Moria detention camp, as well as Samos and Chios but the Hellenic Coast Guard has been particularly effective in deterring the traffickers, said Kathimerini.

During the summer, some 33 vessels set sail from Turkey for Italy, shifting from the central Aegean to a southern Aegean route, using sail boats to take as many as 60 people at a time, typically paying thousands of euros each.

But now the Italian Coast Guard is said to be unhappy and complain to Greek authorities, the Greek Coast Guard responding by sending one of its biggest vessels to the southeastern Aegean to try to block the route to Italy as well, the paper said.

The European Union border patrol Frontex has also been active in the East Aegean as Turkey has continued to let the smugglers keep operating during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the bloc.

Greece has been left to deal with the more than five-year-long crisis as the EU closed its borders to the refugees and migrants and other countries reneged on promises to help take some of the overload.

Greece is trying to deal with more than 100,000 of them, virtually all seeking asylum so they won't be returned to Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war, strife and economic misery in their homelands, using that country as a jumping off point to reach the EU before the borders were slammed shut in their faces.

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