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The refugee crisis in Greece worsens

The refugee crisis continues to grow silently while the EU fails in its commitment to Erdoğan and in the maintenance of camps outside the continent.

Nearly 3,500 people crossed into the northern Aegean islands in September. According to data from the North Aegean Police Directorate, 2,078 refugees and immigrants passed through Lesvos, Chios 589 and Samos 802, from 9 September until 9 am of September 14th.

The upward trends of the flows especially to Lesbos are evident from 808 refugees and immigrants in Lesbos from Monday to Friday at 9.00 am. Specifically, they reached 243 on Monday, 152 on Tuesday, 250 on Wednesday, 112 on Thursday and 51 on Friday until 9:00 in the morning. Chios passed 254: 34 on Monday, 116 on Tuesday, 39 on Wednesday, 35 on Thursday and 30 on Friday. There were 183 in Samos: two on Monday, four on Tuesday, 75 on Wednesday and 102 on Thursday.

In August, 5,813 refugees and migrants had crossed the northern Aegean islands: 3,866 in Lesbos, 685 in Chios and 1,262 in Samos.

More illegal migrants travel hidden in freight trains
The unassuming freight train rumbles across the countryside in northern Greece, but a moving shadow cast on the ground reveals human figures hiding between its wagons.

Migrant stowaways crouch on the couplers. The monotonous clickety-clack of the wheels speeding over the iron tracks makes them drowsy, or it could be the heat and wind in their faces.

Most in this group are from Afghanistan. They are trying to cross the border into North Macedonia and eventually reach Germany or France.

They jump off just before the border and try their luck through the forest on foot to reach the other side. Some remain tucked away inside the wagons in the hope of passing undetected by border guards.

In 2015, at the height of Europe's migrant crisis, nearly a million refugees and migrants poured over Greece's northern boundaries, traveling through the Balkans to wealthier European countries. That route shut in 2016, stranding thousands in Greece and forcing some to find other means of exit such as smuggling themselves onto trains.

Greece's new government has said it will tighten its borders and speed up deportations of asylum-seekers who do not qualify.

Rahman, an Afghan stowaway on the train who left a wife and four children in Kabul, has been in Greece for nine months since arriving from Turkey. He spent time in camps but with no papers, work, or proper accommodation, he says it is time to move on, and joined this group in the trains.

“Greece is good but Greece (didn’t) give me a home, no food. I want to go to another country,” he said.

Anbia Noor Ali, 26, also from Afghanistan, has been in Greece for only a month after crossing on foot from Turkey. Like Rahman, he wants to go to Germany or France.

“In Afghanistan (there is) war, and problems,” he said.

Greece has seen a rise in arrivals of migrants and refugees from Turkey over the summer. In August alone, more than 9,000 arrived by sea and land, the highest monthly number in three years, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

Refugee agencies say the spike comes at a time when overcrowded camps are buckling under pressure. Charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says about 24,000 migrants and refugees are trapped on Greek islands camps in “horrendous” conditions.

At a station near the northern city of Thessaloniki, migrants looking for a way out have made a home in old abandoned wagons as they wait for freight trains to pass.

Without access to welfare and school
So far this year, some 36,000 people have entered the country through its sea and land borders, already surpassing last year’s influx of roughly 32,000. By contrast, the other two European frontline countries, Spain and Italy—both economically and politically less fragile than Greece—have received a total of 26,000 migrants together in 2019.

The situation could escalate even further; Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan threatens to re-open the route for migrants into Europe. Refugee camps are overcrowded and violence also remains a problem. Recently an unaccompanied minor died, and two others were injured in a knife attack at Moria. The situation is dramatic as the Greek government has already spent €1.45 billion of a promised €2.21 from the EU.

Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis decided to cancel legislation that granted access to national health care to all foreigners from non-EU countries without exceptions. “Our country is not an unfenced backyard,” he tweeted, announcing his decision. This not only leaves the country exposed to epidemics. It also bars immigrant children from attending school, since they can’t be issued a required health care number.

"Migrant stowaways ride Greek freight trains seeking escape to north" (, 12-09-2019)
"Greece: Tensions Rise Again As Migrant Crisis Escalates" (Quilette, 13-09-2019)
"Almost 3,500 refugees fled to the northern Aegean islands in September" (, 14-09-2019)


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