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The Turks Are Coming! Tourists, That Is, They’re Landing on Greek Islands

April 12, 2024

LESBOS, Greece – Just as Turkey has hit international TV promoting the Turkaegean coast that has many remnants of a Greek society there run out after the 1922 war, Turkish tourists being given week-long visas are taking to Greek islands near their own country.

The number of arrivals tripled from 2023 in the first 10 days of April, Greece reaping benefits from a detente with Turkey that has seen tensions ratcheted down and Turkey stopping provocations for now.

Those included sending fighter jets into Greek airspace and demanding that Greece take troops off some of the same islands that Turkish tourists are flocking too, with the two countries generally engaging in a ceasefire of tough talk during the summer.

Data presented by Kathimerini showed arrivals on Lesbos hit 3,800 compared to 390 in the corresponding period in 2023, the island a favorite for refugees and migrants coming from Turkey, going there fleeing trouble in their homelands.

ARRIVAL OF TURKISH TOURISTS IN LESΒOS. (PANAGIOTIS BALASKAS/EUROKINISSI)

With the advent of spring and warmer weather, visits also jumped on Chios, which saw 4,993 arrivals as well as Samos – which had 2,851 welcomed, 3300 on Kos and 5,726 on the big island of Rhodes.

The scheme will be extended from April 30 to five islands and nine ports on Limnos, Leros, Symi, Kalymnos and Kastellorizo, the arrivals said spending enough to boost the local economies there.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told ANT1 TV that there’s “excitement on the islands that Turkish visitors can go visa-free,” and he’s expected to note that when he visits Ankara in May and meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Regional Governor Kostas Moutzouris reportedly congratulated Minister of Migration and Asylum Dimitris Kairdis, telling him, “We are overrun with tourists on the islands,” instead of just refugees and migrants on some.

He said that, “Each visitor from Turkey leaves the local economy about twice as much as the visitors who come via charter flights,” the islands just a short hop from Turkey’s coast, some so close you can see them.

Kairidis is reportedly already under pressure to extend the measure to other islands, with Patmos, Thasos and Samothrace being discussed, the report said. The initial agreement came after a four-month consultation that began last August between Kairidis and European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and Greece’s European Union representative and the Foreign Ministry.

The European Commission approved the granting of a visa express to Turkish citizens for visits to 10 Greek islands and 14 ports in early December, 2023. It is valid for seven days, costs 60 euros ($63.81) and can be issued outside the tourist season, at any time during the year. Visitors cannot leave Greece and travel to another destination.

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