ATHENS – The New Democracy government’s vow to keep out refugees and migrants – while denying reports of pushing them back – isn’t working out as the the number of those coming rose 36 percent in the first five months of 2022.
They are coming from Turkey – where they had gone fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan – Turkey letting human traffickers keep sending them with impunity.
While that’s in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, Turkey hasn’t faced any sanctions while claiming that Greece is pushing back refugees and migrants that Turkey isn’t supposed to send.
Most try to reach five Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast despite stepped-up patrols by the Greek Coast Guard and the EU’s border patrol agency Frontex, whose chief resigned after the pushback claims that he – like the government – denied.
Arrivals rose 53 percent on the islands and 26 percent at the northeastern Evros border region where, in February 2020, Turkey sent 10,000 of them and urged a crossing into Greece before they were repelled by riot police and army units.
Flows in May 2022 increased by 96 percent compared to the same month of 2021, spurred by 8,699 Ukrainians, of whom 19 percent are minors, fleeing the Russian invasion and welcomed in Greece while others are not.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine and until May 31, some 32,589 Ukrainians have arrived in Greece, 16,237 electronic applications for temporary protection have been submitted and 14,764 permits have been issued, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.