Migrant crossings from Turkey to Greece triple - The Times

The number of migrants crossing illegally from Turkey to Europe has tripled in recent weeks with the number of arrivals to Greece increasing to 278 from 60 a day, The Times reported on Wednesday.

There were 1,570 arrivals by sea in the first week of August, compared with 479 in the same period last year, the newspaper said, citing data from Athens and the United Nations’ refugee agency.

The rising figure represents a deterioration in diplomatic relations between Athens and Ankara, suggesting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might be trying to gain leverage for the dispute over the hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, The Times said citing unnamed experts. 

Turkey and the EU agreed on a refugee deal in 2016 to cut the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. A key provision of the deal was that immigrants arriving on Greek islands would be returned to Turkey unless they applied for and received asylum in Greece.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last month said that Turkey would cancel the readmission deal with the EU, if the bloc failed to deliver on its promise of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. His statement came amid escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over hydrocarbon resources and the EU’s decision to impose punitive measures on Turkey due to Ankara’s increasing efforts for gas drilling off Cyprus. 

Meanwhile, the Turkish government, which faces the pressure of growing anti-Syrian sentiments inside the country, has been trying to return Syrians in Istanbul to the provinces they were registered upon arrival. Refugee advocates say that the Turkish authorities have been deporting some Syrians to Idlib which is currently a war zone. 

Greece is at a breaking point as there are already 90,000 migrants in more than 50 overcrowded camps and centres across the mainland, northern frontiers and five Aegean islands, the Times said. The recent surge in illegal crossing might soon result in a humanitarian crisis, it said.