ATHENS – Greek officials are trying to deal with yet another surge in the arrival of refugees and migrants on islands near the coast of Turkey, which has ramped up tension in detention centers and camps.
Some 14,000 are on the islands – there’s another 50,000 on the mainland – abandoned by the European Union which closed its doors to them as part of a suspended swap deal with Turkey, which allowed human traffickers to flood Greece with refugees and migrants.
Islanders are increasingly agitated over the numbers with many refugees and migrants stuck where they are for up to two years as Greece struggles to deal with asylum applications and limited assistance from the European Union.
A total of 438 people arrived on the islands aboard smuggling boats from Turkey from Oct. 16-18, with another 175 people arriving on the islet of Oinousses on Oct. 19, Kathimerini said.
The Oinousses arrivals were taken to nearby Chios which is overcrowded with 1,600 people living in facilities designed to host 850. It’s even worse on Samos, where a reception center designed to host 700 people is accommodating 2,850, the paper said.
The Migration Ministry said around 1,000 migrants will be relocated to the mainland next week after previously refusing to move any, but island officials said that will do little to ease the congestion.
Samos Mayor Michalis Angelopoulos appealed to the EU for help – its migration chief is Greece’s New Democracy veteran Dimitris Avramopoulos who has not forced other countries to live up to pledges to take in refugees and migrants to help Greece.
Angelopoulos’ request came during a meeting of regional authority officials in Strasbourg, France, one of the seats of the European Parliament, where he said the Aegean islands “cannot bear the burden of the refugee problem which is threatening to divide Europe.”
Previous appeals have been ignored as the problem has been dumped on Greece during a crushing economic and austerity crisis.
There’s growing unease on the islands with those on opposite sides of how to deal with the refugees and migrants planning demonstrations on Oct. 22 on Samos, with far-right extremists at odds with leftists who support the newcomers and who protest what they called the EU’s anti-migrant stance.
The tension isn’t limited to the islands. On Oct. 19, in one of several occupied derelict buildings near the port of Patra, a 38-year-old Afghan man was hospitalized after being stabbed by four Pakistanis. That came after a recent knife attack on a 23-year-old Pakistani man by an Afghan in the city.
Sources told the paper that the attacks are part of an ongoing dispute between rival gangs seeking to control the human trafficking trade which is flourishing despite the presence of Greek police and the near absence of EU help.