Migrants leaving Turkey for Aegean islands despite adverse weather

Dozens of undocumented migrants have arrived at the Aegean islands from Turkey in the last few days of 2018 despite the bad weather, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported.

A total of 75 migrants reached Farmakonisi before being transferred to nearby Leros for identification in the early hours of New Year’s Eve, the newspaper said, citing the Greek Coast Guard, which intercepted two vessels carrying 38 and 37 migrants each.

Another 55 migrants reached Lesvos and Chios over the weekend, it said.

Turkey is one of the main departure points for migrants seeking to enter Europe by sea, but a 2016 agreement with the European Union sharply cut the numbers of refugees using that route.

The EU-Turkey refugee deal, which came into effect on March 2016, aimed to cut the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. According to the deal, the EU promised the allocation of €3bn in aid to Turkey to help migrants. The deal also included the end of visa restrictions applied to Turkish citizens when travelling to Europe as of June 2016, yet the visa restrictions still remain.

“Migrant flows may have reduced due to the weather but they haven’t stopped,” Samos Mayor Michalis Angelopoulos told Kathimerini, noting that 1,080 people arrived in December.

Despite a pledge by the Greek government to close the island’s overcrowded reception center by mid-February, it appears unlikely to happens before a general election set to take place in May.