Mi­grants opt for Mediter­ranean

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Po­lit­i­cal un­rest in North Africa this year re­sulted in a heav­ier in­flux of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants to­ward the cen­tral Mediter­ranean and a drop in il­le­gal ar­rivals in Greece, ac­cord­ing to Fron­tex.

Out of a to­tal of around 33,000 would-be mi­grants ar­rested across the Euro­pean Union for il­le­gal en­try in the first three months of this year, some 22,600 were stopped on the Ital­ian borders, chiefly on the is­land of Lampe­dusa, Fron­tex’s Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Gil Arias Fer­nan­dez told a press con­fer­ence in Athens yes­ter­day. Some 7,200 mi­grants were ar­rested at Greece’s land and sea borders dur­ing this time – up from around 13,000 dur­ing the same pe­riod last year, he said.

But Fer­nan­dez said that the in­creased pres­sure on the Ital­ian is­lands and on Malta would not re­lieve Greece in the medium term. Greece re­mains the “tra­di­tional transit coun­try” of choice for the ma­jor­ity of would-be mi­grants head­ing for West­ern and North­ern Europe from Africa, he said.

Of the mi­grants stopped by Greek bor­der guards, 44 per­cent said they had come from Afghanistan, 16 per­cent from Al­ge­ria, 8.5 per­cent from Pak­istan, 6 per­cent from So­ma­lia and 4 per­cent from Iraq.

Ac­cord­ing to Fer­nan­dez, this break­down could change if the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in war-torn Libya shifts and refugees are able to cross via sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa.

A trend that is re­port­edly strength­en­ing is that of Al­ge­rian im­mi­grants tak­ing di­rect flights to Tur­key be­fore con­tin­u­ing to the Greek-Turk­ish bor­der. Some 42,000 visas were is­sued last year to Al­ge­ri­ans trav­el­ing to Tur­key.

Stricter polic­ing of the Greek-Turk­ish land bor­der over the past few months has re­duced the in­flux of il­le­gal im­mi­grants into Greece. But, with the pop­u­la­tion of mi­grants grow­ing in Athens and other cities, the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to press ahead with the con­struc­tion of a wire fence along a 12.5-kilo­me­ter stretch of the Greek-Turk­ish bor­der with the aim of avert­ing new il­le­gal ar­rivals. Authorities are also plan­ning the con­struc­tion of sev­eral new de­ten­tion cen­ters for un­doc­u­mented mi­grants, one of which is slated for the north­ern pre­fec­ture of Evros.

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