Illegal migrants arriving by sea in Greece triple in 2015, officials say

Migrants stand behind a fence at a detention centre for illegal immigrants in Amygdaleza, near Athens, on February 21, 2015. (AFP)

The number of illegal migrants arriving in Greece by sea has tripled in the first three months of 2015, the Greek coast guard said Thursday.

The period saw 10,445 migrants arriving, compared with 2,863 for the corresponding months last year.

In March alone, 6,493 migrants arrived along Greece’s coastline and islands, mostly on islands in eastern Greece near Turkey, the main embarkment point for the people smugglers’ boats.

The island with the biggest influx was Mytilene, followed by Chios, Leros and Samos.

On Thursday alone 200 migrants were rescued after arriving on the isolated island of Gavdos, south of Crete, which has a population of only 100 people, the Greek news agency ANA reported.

People smugglers use many routes to carry their paying customers, mainly from north Africa, to reach EU countries where the migrants seek asylum or try to travel further into the European Union.

The journeys are dangerous and in numerous cases fatal as poorly equipped and overladen vessels run into bad weather or overturn.

Visiting Athens on Wednesday, the EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said the European Union was “worried” by the current asylum system.

He said the EU was “conscious that something has to change” in the rule that puts responsibility for dealing with migrants on the first country they arrive in, putting a disproportional burden on southern states, such as Greece and Italy, targeted by the people smugglers.

During a visit to Malta on Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that Europe must look to the chaos of the civil war in Libya if it wants to bring order to its own shores.

“Rather than being terrorized by the prospect of new arrivals of immigrants, we should take on the problem by attacking its roots, the situation in Libya,” he said. “Without peace in Libya immigration will continue.”

Renzi said that frontier countries like Italy and Malta should not be left to fend for themselves.

“If Europe doesn’t act to face up to this challenge, that will represent a defeat for its institutions,” he said.
 

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Last Update: 15:01 KSA 18:01 - GMT 15:01
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