Greek coast­guard res­cues 2,500 mi­grants in 3 days

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Greek coast­guard has res­cued about 2,500 mi­grants and refugees off the coun­try’s eastern is­lands over the past three days, author­i­ties said on Mon­day, as the flow of peo­ple try­ing to cross into Europe con­tin­ued un­abated, ac­cord­ing to the EU news and pol­icy site EurAc­tiv.

Greece has seen a surge in the num­ber of refugees ar­riv­ing by rub­ber dinghies from Tur­key, with aid agen­cies es­ti­mat­ing about 2,000 cross­ing over daily in Au­gust, mostly from con­flict-rid­den places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The num­bers of mi­grants be­ing picked up by the coast­guard have been ris­ing steadily over the past week and the fig­ures for the past three days are at the higher end of those seen this sum­mer, a coast­guard of­fi­cial said.

All in­ter­cep­tions of mi­grant boats in Greek wa­ters are clas­si­fied as coast­guard res­cues even if the ves­sels are not in any dan­ger or need any help.

Af­ter a hia­tus of a few days last week, Greek author­i­ties re­sumed fer­ry­ing Syr­ian refugees to the main­land by ship on Satur­day and the latest group of 2,500 refugees ar­rived at the port of Pi­raeus ear­lier on Mon­day.

Most of them are ex­pected to make their way to the bor­der with Skopje as part of their jour­ney into north­ern Europe, sug­gest­ing larger crowds could amass at the bor­der in the com­ing days shrank last week.

Ten­sions peaked at the Greek side of the bor­der last month when Macedonian po­lice

af­ter num­bers fired tear gas and stun grenades to drive back an­gry crowds. Over­whelmed author­i­ties later gave up and have since al­lowed refugees to cross over.

Con­di­tions at the bor­der re­main calm at the mo­ment but a new flare-up of ten­sions could emerge if Hungary closed its borders, Stathis Ky­rousis, head of Doc­tors With­out Borders’ mi­gra­tion oper­a­tions in the Balkans told Reuters.

Hungary - which has been scram­bling to re­in­force borders to cope with the mi­grant in­flux - plans to tighten mi­gra­tion laws this week and set up hold­ing camps near Ser­bia.

“If Hungary closes its borders, there is a greater chance that Skopje will fol­low and this will make ten­sions more likely,” he said.

More than 300,000 peo­ple have crossed the Mediter­ranean this year, in­clud­ing nearly 181,500 ar­riv­ing in Greece and 108,500 in Italy, ac­cord­ing to the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees.

An av­er­age of 1,700 mi­grants crossed into Greece daily in July, with the num­ber top­ping 2,000 daily in Au­gust, Ky­rousis said. The ar­rivals in re­cent days were con­tin­u­ing at the higher end of lev­els seen this sum­mer, with 4,000 peo­ple ar­riv­ing on the is­land of Les­bos on Satur­day alone, he said.

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