ATHENS – While denying pushing back refugees and migrants who want to seek asylum, Greece said it’s trying to keep them out by other means, including patrols and a border wall, and the strategy is working.
The number of refugee and migrant populations 55 percent lower in January 2023 than at the same time in 2022, migration authorities revealed, but there continue to be many many unaccompanied minors,said Info Migrants.
There was also a big drop in the number of people housed in designated refugee accommodation units and detention centers, some of which keep them mostly confined while asylum applications are processed.
The figures also showed the number of arrivals in January was down 20 percent from December 2022 and 23 percent on Greek islands that are the favored destination of those coming from Turkey, which they use as a jumping off point.
Under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, Turkey is supposed to contain some 4.4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan.
Greece and the EU’s border patrol Frontex scours the seas in the Aegean to look for rubber dinghies and rickety craft on which human traffickers that Turkey allows to operates puts refugees and migrants heading for Greek islands.
Greece has also stepped up patrols, including electronic surveillance, on the land border with Turkey by the Evros River, where scores have drowned trying to cross, and is extending a border wall along almost the entire length.
That brought a 2 percent decrease in the number in January over the month before with the New Democracy government still fending off criticism of pushbacks which it said haven’t happened, disputing eyewitnesses and evidence.
As of March 2, there were 2,374 unaccompanied children in Greece, more than can be dealt with, said the Ministry of Migration and Asylum while EU figures said the number of unaccompanied children rose 72 percent from 2021-22.