German Police Say Greece Remains Key Entry Point for Migrants, Smugglers



German police have claimed Greece is one of the most important entry points for irregular migrants and people smugglers.

The online version of Der Spiegel magazine has quoted from a domestic police report which claims: “Very often the road for those who want to enter Europe passes through Greece.”

Only this week, 300 people in boats landed at eight different points of Lesvos island, as improving weather conditions at seas facilitate more crossings. More than 30,000 migrants also crossed to Greek islands in the second half of 2017.

Experts attribute the new influx to the increased action of traffickers after the recapture of the Syrian city of Raqqa, which was the bastion of Islamic State jihadists.

Specifically, in the months of September and October, an average 144 refugees and migrants per day landed on the Greek islands, most of them from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, with 54 dying or disappearing, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

People smuggling

Der Spiegel claims German police also focused on the profits made by people smugglers, with one group reportedly transferring “460 refugees from Izmir [Smyrna] to Samos, Chios and Lesbos between September and December 2017, earning $180,000, almost $400 per person”.

“In the region there is a great deal of pressure from migratory flows because in neighboring Turkey there are almost four million refugees, more than any other country on earth,” the German magazine adds.

At the same time, the relocation of irregular migrants back to Turkey based on the EU-Turkey agreement signed in March 2016 has been inactive. The Greek side has done very little to send back migrants as agreed, the report claims.

This echoes similar reports in German media earlier this month citing unnamed EU officials who criticized Athens, claiming Greece was undermining the deal by giving the impression those who managed to reach the islands would be assured of a place in Europe and not sent back.

Der Spiegel wrote: “Traffickers are deliberately opting for Greek islands where refugee reception centers are overcrowded on the grounds that, as a result of this situation, refugees are sent to the mainland, thus increasing their chances of continuing their journey to Western Europe.

“This attitude of the Greek authorities is proving to attract irregular migration from Turkey.”

According to Der Spiegel, 26,000 refugees were sent to mainland Greece in 2017.

“From there, with the help of traffickers, refugees continue their journey, usually hidden in trucks, cars or trains, because the Balkan road is now closed.

“Others use fake travel documents on low-cost flights to leave Greece to other Schengen countries. Illegal migration through Greece into Europe continues,” the German police report concludes.