Up to 1,200 migrants fleeing fighting in Syria and Afghanistan have arrived on the Greek island of Kos in just two days. They join the nearly 30,000 immigrants who have risked perilous sea crossings to land on Greek soil this year alone.
After Italy, Greece is the most popular destination for refugees from the war-torn Middle East, thanks to its proximity to Turkey, which borders Syria, the Express has reported. At it’s closest point Greece is within swimming distance from the Turkish shore, the two separated by the one mile Mycale Strait.
The 1,200 men, women and children had crossed the eastern Aegean sea in rickety, overcrowded boats before being picked up by Greek authorities on Kos, Lesvos, Chios and Farmakonissi. Once on Kos, they marched en masse to look for shelter. They are thought to have taken refuge in a deserted hotel.
The EU commissioner for immigration, Dimitris Avramapoulos, has travelled to Athens to discuss the migrant crisis with governmental officials today. On Monday, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece all met to set up a common border police and customs centre to deal with the surge in migrants.
Bulgaria’s interior minister Rumyana Bachvarova said: “This agreement guarantees closer cooperation of the three countries that face one and the same challenges – migration, organised crime and terrorism.”
The centre will be located at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint between Turkey and Bulgaria, which also borders Greece. There are currently two million refugees from the Syrian conflict in Turkey, many of whom are attempting to cross into Europe via Greece and Bulgaria.
Almost 1,700 migrants have already perished on the Mediterranean so far this year, a 30-fold increase in deaths on the same period last year as migrants flood through Africa towards the safety of Europe.
Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy commissioner has called on all European states to take a proportion of the migrants, in order to share the burden. “We must be ready to share the responsibilities. The people that travel across the Mediterranean don’t travel towards Italy or Malta, but towards Europe,” Ms Mogherini said in Rome.
But the UK, France and Germany, all of which are popular final destinations for the migrants, are unwilling to take even more refugees. Earlier this month, a Home Office spokesman said “The UK has a proud history of offering asylum to those who need it most but we do not believe that a mandatory system of resettlement is the answer. We will oppose any EU Commission proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota.”