Greece has issued an official complaint with the European Commission saying Turkey is responsible for deliberate negligence in guarding the borders on Evros River. As a result, the number of migrants crossing the river in an effort to reach Greece has increased dramatically over the last months.
Greece’s government said Turkish border authorities aren’t being vigilant enough. “There is very strong pressure at the Evros border while at the same time direct contact between local authorities in Greece and Turkey has stopped, which is making the problem worse,” a senior official at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry told Kathimerini.
Greek officials were said to be very concerned that a wave of 500,000 Afghans who entered Turkey from Iran and Iraq could be heading for Greece, the closest point of entry to the European Union, which has shut its borders to them and reneged on promises to help spread an overload of more than 64,000 refugees and migrants around other countries.
Data showed that 1,010 human smugglers were arrested in the period spanning January to August while another 180 were nabbed in September and Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas told Parliament that 3,300 illegal migrants slipped through the Evros border in 2016, while 5,500 crossed in 2017, the figure jumping to some 12,000 this year so far, despite many having drowned previously while trying to cross the treacherous river.
The human traffickers are said to be from Albania, Bulgaria, and FYROM and they take migrants to Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki on buses, without being stopped.
The surge has resulted in many of them camping out in Thessaloniki’s main Aristotelous Square and near the police station by the well-known White Tower, hoping to be arrested so they can apply for asylum.