Despite a fence along the border, Greece has been unable to halt rising numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country through Turkey, with many still coming by land and others using sea routes.
At the European Union’s southern border, Greece is the country of choice for immigrants hoping to be granted asylum or get into other countries in the bloc.
After the fence was put up, the numbers trying to get into Greece through Turkey fell, but with strife in the Mideast and the Syrian Civil War still raging, more illegals are using whatever means they can find to get in.
In the first seven months of the year, Greek authorities arrested 15,104 undocumented migrants trying to enter the country via Turkey, marking a 143.6 percent increase over the previous year.
They are being led by Syrians. “If they decide to flee the refugee camps set up in [Syria’s] neighboring countries, the situation will get worse,” Panagiotis Nikas, Director of a first-reception service told Kathimerini.
“At the same time, we are holding our breath over the situation in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries,” he said.
Authorities on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos stopped 4,071 immigrants in the first half of the year compared to 1,998 the previous year.
Up to 1,025 where intercepted on nearby Samos in July when the number of arrests for the first half of 2013 was 962. On Chios, authorities detained 735 migrants in July against just 293 in the first half of last year.
Data also show a spike in the number of border crossings at Greece’s northeastern Evros region, where the 12.5 kilometer razor-wire fence along the Turkish border and beefed-up border control have failed to stem the tide.
In the first half of 2014, border guards arrested 748 immigrants, a 64.4 percent increase over the previous year’s 455 arrests.
“In the past four months, the number of people trying to make their way through Evros has skyrocketed,” said Panagiotis Charelas, President of the nationwide federation of border guards.
“Where last year we only had a few scattered incidents, operations this year have become a daily routine,” he said.
Last year, Greece spent more than 63 million euros to prevent illegal immigration into its porous border.
Only 2.6 million came from Europe’s border control agency Frontex and Greece has been unable to convince EU officials to do more to help.
Human rights groups have criticized the centers in which many illegal immigrants are being held but Greek officials said the country is being overwhelmed by an almost-unstoppable tide.
“Right now, Greece and Italy have to shoulder a disproportionate burden despite of the fact that our borders are also Europe’s borders and despite the fact that most migrants do not wish to settle in Greece but to move further north,” Nikas told Kathimerini.