Greece: Illegal Migrant Arrivals Surge 122 Percent, 7,000 Intercepted on Turkish Border in Last Week

Greece
SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images

The number of illegal migrants crossing into Greece has surged by 122 percent compared to the same period last year, with the Turkish land border under increasing pressure.

Migrants had turned first to Italy and now Spain as their preferred entry point to the European Union after the bloc began paying the Turkish government billions of euros to curb the number of sea crossings to Greece following a massive influx in 2015.

But arrivals are now increasing dramatically as people-smugglers exploit the Greco-Turkish land border marked by the River Evros — which is not covered by the EU deal — with 24,000 total arrivals recorded by July 8th, according to Gerald Tatzgern, of Austria’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

This represents an increase of 122 percent on the same period in 2017 — and may significantly underestimate the true scale of the influx, as illegal migration is by definition poorly recorded, with the Dutch government indicating that two-thirds of the migrants reaching them have not been registered in another EU country beforehand.

The Turks are not completely ignoring the issue as they have been accused of in the past, however, with the ANSAmed news agency reporting that they have apprehended some 7,000 would-be migrants in just the last week.

Tatzgern suggested that, while the migrant crisis has been partly contained on the Greek front, this could all change depending on the situation in Turkey — for example, if the economy crashes and migrants cannot find any work, legitimate or otherwise.

“Then there are hundreds of thousands [of migrants] on the streets [of Turkey], who would probably be pushing for Europe,” he said, warning that there is “no relaxation in sight” in terms of pressure on the continent’s borders.

Indeed, the recently quiescent ‘Balkan route’ for illegal immigration appears to be heating up again, with the International Red Cross noting that the number of migrants arriving in Bosnia-Herzegovina has increased eightfold compared to 2017.

This would appear to lend weight to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s warning that the migrant crisis is not going away, but that Europe is seeing “seeing signs of a new migration wave, of a rising tide following a low tide; it’s rising now, and this poses a challenge”.

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