Already overwhelmed on islands detaining some 15,000 refugees and migrants, those trying to enter Greece through a different path are finding safer crossings along the Evros River on the Turkish border.
Some 1,658 migrants came into Greece in that area with Turkey allowing human traffickers to operate in an area near where two Greek soldiers accidentally crossed while on patrol in bad weather and now are facing trial.
The crossings came during a period of high water levels in the river which has taken the lives of many who tried to get across, including women and children fleeing war and strife in the Middle East and economic migrants looking for a better life in the European Union, which has closed its borders to them.
Most refugees and migrants who went to Turkey after leaving their homelands take the perilous Aegean Sea crossing to Greek islands and there are another 50,000 being held in detention centers and camps on the mainland.
The arrivals via the mainland route in northern Greece jumped markedly from 262 the previous year and this year most were running from Syria’s civil war or the troubles in war-torn Iraq, Kathimerini said in a report.
The numbers are picking up despite a suspended European Union swap deal with Turkey, which has taken back only a relative handful and with the problem dumped largely on Greece during an eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis after Europe closed its borders and reneged on promises to relieve Greece of the overload.
Arrivals on Greek islands are also increasing with the advent of warmer weather. European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, a veteran Greek politician, visited the temporary refugee detention center near the village of Ritsona north of Athens and apartments housing refugees in Livadia on April 12.
Speaking to journalists after his visit, he said the EU-Turkey deal aimed at reducing migratory flows “is in force and continues to produce results,” except for the numbers being returned to Turkey, an essential factor.
He said, however, that, “The situation concerning migration remains unstable” and said Greece has to speed the returns to Turkey and its asylum processing procedures although he has not yet moved to make other EU countries honor their pledges nor taken them to court which is in his authority.