Refugee and immigration-related stories are splattered across Greek newspapers on a daily basis. The Athens office of the UNHCR (the UN’s Refugee Agency) compiles stories each week. Here is a sample of these news clippings from the last two weeks – just to give you a sense of the context here. Please continue to pray for Greece, the refugees, and our ministry team!
4,500 migrants have applied to return home
Until last Thursday (23/2), 1,278 migrants had gone home, while it is estimated that a total of 2,500 migrants will have returned to their homelands in the coming months, as part of the voluntary repatriation scheme organized by the Athens office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Since last May, 4,500 migrants have applied for repatriation. The crushing majority of them are Afghans (1,923), followed by Pakistanis (1,087), Iraqis, Bangladeshis, Moroccans, Nigerians and Sudanese.
(Ethnos, newsbeast.gr, 25 February)
Arrest toll for February in the two most “active” regions
According to the announcement of the General Police Department of Eastern Macedonia –Thrace, four traffickers and 2,470 irregular migrants were arrested in February 2012. In the region of Epirus, respective figures reached 679 for the number of irregular migrants and 9 for traffickers.
Greece warned to tighten border controls
On Thursday (8/3), a group of seven EU Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs urged Greece to improve border controls. Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain – countries that receive the bulk of asylum applications – called for an action plan to stem the tide of irregular migrants into the union. Germany and Austria adopted a strict tone. “The question still remains what happens when a country is not capable of securing its borders, as we are currently experiencing with Greece”, emphasized Hans-Peter Friedrich, German Minister of the Interior. His remarks were echoed by his Austrian counterpart, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who described Greece’s border “open like a barn door”. Luxembourg’s Minister of Immigration, Nicolas Schmit, said that Greece could not be expected to get to grips with the problem on its own.
Young Eritrean migrant suffers tragic death in Patras
A 28-year-old Eritrean migrant died a tragic death when a truck rolled over him last Monday (12/3) in the new port of Patras. In his effort to find a way out of Greece, the young man had hidden under an Italy-bound truck.
(tvxs.gr, 12 March)
Commercial life in central Athens threatened by hordes of migrants
Greece’s financial crisis doesn’t seem to have had a deterrent effect on immigration flows. Most of them wish to settle in other European countries, but they are “trapped” in Greece and usually end up in the center of Athens. Due to the absence of migration policy, some of them get involved in criminal activities in a desperate effort to survive. Athens center has become a hub of such activities, with Omonoia square being the number one danger zone. Professionals running their business in central Athens sound the alarm as commercial life seems to be reaching a dramatic end.
(elladanews.gr, 10 March)