Even as the repercussions of the debt crisis make the prospects of a new life in Greece less than rosy, the influx of undocumented immigrants into the country has increased significantly over the past year, according to figures released on Wednesday by the European Union’s border monitoring agency, Frontex. However, a top agency official has told Kathimerini that Greece woefully lacks the infrastructure to accommodate the would-be migrants.
Detentions at the Greek-Turkish land border increased by 20 percent in October compared to the same month last year, according to Frontex, which referred to “an absolute monthly record of 9,600 illegal border crossings.” “Average detections were over 300 irregular migrants crossing that border on a daily basis,” a statement issued by the agency said.
The agency attributed the “dramatic development” to a combination of factors. These include the absence of sufficient detention facilities both in Greece and Turkey, and the lack of adequate agreements for the readmission of immigrants from specific countries of origin.
Frontex’s deputy executive director Gil Arias Fernandez told Kathimerini at a press briefing on Wednesday that most of the 26 countries contributing staff and equipment to the agency’s operation at the Greek-Turkish border were increasingly reluctant to continue, largely due to the failure of Greek authorities to create new reception centers for migrants, particularly in Evros, a key main gateway for immigrants to cross into Greece from Turkey. Most of the current reception centers in Greece are “unacceptable,” according to Fernandez, who also criticized authorities for refusing to cooperate with nongovernmental organizations.
Additional contributing factors cited by Frontex appear to apportion a fair burden of the blame to Turkish authorities — the proximity of Istanbul airport (with low-cost connecting flights), Turkey’s liberal visa policy and the “numerous facilitation networks established in Turkey with links to Greece,” an apparent reference to cross-border smuggling rings.