Greek Shipping Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis said that authorities have prevented more than 10,000 migrants from entering Greece clandestinely by sea so far this year, despite a recent lack of cooperation from the Turkish Coast Guard.
According to the minister, arrivals were down 84% since March 1, compared to the same period last year, while the reduction in the month of August stood at nearly 95% compared to August 2019.
“Since the start of the year, the entry of more than 10,000 people has been prevented,” Plakiotakis said.
In August alone, he noted that the Hellenic Coast Guard had “68 cases of prevention and we succeeded in 3,000 people not entering our country.” Plakiotakis stressed the coast guard “operates based on international law and international legality, based on the rules of engagement at sea, and … with complete respect for human dignity and of course for human life.”
The Minister also accused the Turkish Coast Guard of actively escorting the boats to the edge of Greek territorial waters. “There are cases where (the Turkish coast guard) is accompanying boats with refugees and migrants to our borders and … trying to create problems.”
Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied children, are living in squalid conditions in overcrowded camps on several Greek islands after arriving from the nearby Turkish coast.
According to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 12,000 asylum-seekers have reached Greece this year. The total number of arrivals by sea and land in all of 2019 was approximately 75,000.
Greece has reinforced patrols along the land and sea border with Turkey.
In March this year, Turkey attempted to asymmetrically invade Greece with the use of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Turkey had not only falsely told the illegal immigrants that Greece’s borders were open, but it also facilitated the transportation of the illegal immigrants and utilised their army to try and tear down Greece’s border wall. This damage is currently being repaired.
As a result of armed conflict and civil unrest in Syria, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries, hundreds of thousands of people in 2015 fled across the Mediterranean Sea to escape war and persecution. These people fleeing viewed Greece (more specifically the Greek islands) as an entry point to Europe, where they could then peruse their route to Northern Europe. In an attempt to resolve the enormous influx of refugees in Europe, the EU and Turkey signed a deal in 2016 to end the migrant flow. This included Turkey agreeing to take back all illegal migrants in Europe, and in return the EU agreed to speed up the country’s EU membership, as well as billions of euros.