The so-far unstoppable advance of the Islamic State, ISIS, in Syria and Iraq is sending soaring numbers of refugees and illegal immigrants heading to Greece and Europe.
The onslaught is getting particularly difficult for Greece to handle on its Aegean islands, the first stopping point for immigrants fleeing the Mideast, many in rickety and overcrowded boats which have often capsized with great loss of life.
Kathimerini said those islands now are receiving 80 percent of its unlawful migrants from Syria, where there has also been a civil war raging for several years.
According to diplomatic sources, about 1 million Syrians have taken refuge in Turkey over the past six months. A large number of these refugees have been transferred to the coastal region of Izmir, at the behest of Turkish authorities, and there are fears that many are attempting the short but risky crossing by smuggling boat to Greece.
Already several islands in the eastern Aegean are feeling the brunt of increased migrant flows. Greek coast guard authorities intercepted 7,967 immigrants off Lesvos in the first nine months of this year, 6,351 off Samos and 4, 440 off Chios.
The newspaper reported that Turkish smuggling networks based in Izmir are well organized, while a new racket is being set up on the Turkish coast opposite the island of Kos.
Foreign intelligence agencies have asked the Greek Police and Coast Guard for details about the criminal networks operating on the European Union’s eastern external borders even though the European Union’s Frontex agency, designed to help patrol the borders, has cut back so much that Greece has complained vehemently it’s getting little help in dealing with the influx of refugees, with the country seeing as much as 90 percent of the migration to the EU, including from Africa.
Last week the Greek office of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) appealed to the European Union to boost support for Greece and other southern European countries struggling with a growing influx of would-be immigrants, reporting that arrivals on islands in the Aegean have tripled over the past year.
Greece’s European Commissioner-designate, Dimitris Avramopoulos, will getting the portfolio to deal with immigration but he’s responsible for overseeing that policy for all 28 EU countries and not just Greece.