Local authorities on the Greek islands of the northeastern Aegean Sea are girding themselves for what is expected to be a growing wave of refugees from war-torn Syria, as measures to reduce the inflow of illegal immigrants via the Greek-Turkish border in the Evros region have put a greater strain on the porous coastlines of Greece’s islands.
Officials in the area said that there has already been a significant spike in the number of refugees and undocumented migrants that have landed on their shores from Turkey, as the daily Kathimerini reported. Their concern is that this wave will grow as the civil war in Syria escalates and that they are ill-equipped to deal with such a large influx.
”We are scared of reliving past situations of hundreds of wretched immigrants arriving here in boats,” Lesvos Mayor Dimitris Vounatsos told Kathimerini. ”The detention center has been closed down and the municipality has no money to do anything about it,” he added. The government earlier this month launched a police operation dubbed Xenios Zeus’ to clamp down on illegal immigration by holding frequent identity checks and by fortifying Greece’s northern border with Turkey.
In Evros the measure is said to be proving effective, as what used to be a daily influx of dozens has now trickled down to single digits but that could change if the battles between rebels and Syrian government forces continues to send refugees fleeing to other countries. Greece plans to erect a fence on its border with Turkey, but many unlawful immigrants try to make the journey by boat and authorities said that traffickers have switched to alternative routes into Greece and the European Union, via the islands.