Greece said on Nov. 22 it was deploying more border guards to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to stay, the latest sign of a hardening stance against asylum seekers since a new surge in the number of arrivals.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament he had approved the hiring of 400 guards at Greeces land border with Turkey and another 800 guards for its islands. Greece will also upgrade its sea patrolling operations, he said.
In an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Mitsotakis talked about the current refugee and migrant crisis that Greece faces, blaming Turkey, the European Union, and Eastern European countries for creating the crisis, according to Greek Reporter.
“The European Union views Greece as convenient parking for refugees and migrants,” Mitsotakis said, reported the same source.
In the interview, Mitsotakis blamed those Eastern European EU members that refused to take their share of refugees and migrants from Greece and Italy.
Turkey uses refugees and migrants as an argument in bargaining with the European Union, said Mitsotakis.
Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16 that involved Syria and Iraq. At that time 211,000 migrants crossed the border in a single month, reported Voice of America.
Greeks island Lesbos, as well as some other Greek islands, are the main destination for migrants. They are also natural barriers preventing migrants from crossing to Europes mainland.
Migrant and refugee arrivals from neighboring Turkey have risen again, and more than 37,000 people are crammed into facilities on Greek islands which operate far beyond their capacity.
This year about 44,000 refugees arrived on Greek islands from Turkey which represents a 30 percent increase in comparison to the previous year, according to The New Humanitarian.
“There are now more than 96,500 refugees and migrants in Greece, according to the U.N.s refugee agency, UNHCR,” reported The New Humanitarian.
To alleviate the situation, the Greek government, which took office in July, enacted a new asylum law in October that will accelerate processing asylum requests as well as return to Turkey those whose who were denied asylum. The basis of returning refugees to Turkey is the 2016 EU-Turkey deal.
The main purpose of the EU-Turkey deal was to prevent migrants from crossing from Turkey and reduce human trafficking. The deal was partially successful as the influx of migrants entering European countries dropped at the beginning. However, Greece was able to send to Turkey only a small number of its refugees.