ATHENS – The number of undocumented immigrants entering Greece illegally is expected to triple by the end of the year, Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said, blaming the Syrian civil war and Mideast unrest as key reasons.
Some 30,000 migrants are expected to have entered Greece illegally by the end of 2014, up from 9,000 in 2013, Varvitsiotis told a parliamentary committee.
He blamed the increase on the activities of Jihadists, noting that televised beheadings of victims and news of mass graves and mass attacks have led to “increased pressure on our borders.”
Greece, the southernmost entry point to the European Union, has been inundated with waves of immigrants despite crackdowns that have seen many put into detention camps and deported.
The immigrants, mainly from Africa and the Mideast, try to reach Greece by sea, with many drowning over overloaded boats have capsized.
Human traffickers have gotten bolder, even attacking Greek Coast Guard ships that try to interfere with the lucrative business of smuggling people into the country.
Illegal migrants either hope to find asylum in Greece – which is unlikely – or use the country as a jumping off point to get to other EU countries, or try to lay low and hope they won’t be discovered while they try to eke out a living.
Greece has long complained that the EU does too little and doesn’t provide enough money to help the country deal with the migrants, whose numbers make up 90 percent of those trying to enter the bloc.
Greece’s designed European Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, who would get the portfolio on immigration, testified before a European Parliament confirmation committee that the EU should be protected from illegal immigrant but without becoming what he called a “Fortress.”