Less than 10,000 individuals reside in Greece's overcrowded migrant camps for the first time since Europe's migration crisis began in 2015, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum announced last week.
"The reduction in the number of asylum-seekers to below 10,000 on our islands is more proof of the easing of the burden of immigration on local communities, and shows we are working in the right direction," said Migration & Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi.
More specifically, until April 30 (this year), the islands hosted 11,434 migrants (a year earlier the number was 38,284), while on May 12, this number had decreased further, to 9,811.
Arrivals from Turkey in the first four months of 2021, were also down 73% compared to the same period last year, and outstanding asylum applications fell by 41% over the past year.
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 the Greek coast guard, the boats are often very old and their engines frequently break down during the long journey.
Immigration Minister: Greece does not tolerate illegal migrant crossings orchestrated by Turkey
Earlier this year, Mitarachi sent a letter to European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johannson, as Turkish vessels continue to escort inflatable migrant boats towards European borders.
The letter emphasises, among other things, that “it is a well-established fact that these migrants departed the Turkish coast, and given that they were under close observation and escort by Turkish vessels, the conclusion is that they were not being persecuted, and their lives were not in danger.”
He was backed by Greek Coast Guard data showing Turkish support of these failed attempts at illegal crossings.
“It is beyond doubt that the Turkish authorities continue to support the passage of migrants, with the clear aim of creating propaganda through the media, putting pressure on the EU’s external borders and thus seeking to escalate with Greece,” he continued.
The Minister stressed that Greece “does not tolerate illegal migrant crossings orchestrated by Turkey,” and called on the European Union “to react in a coordinated manner to such actions, which do not specifically target one member state, but the EU as a whole.”