The refugee crisis continues to play out tragically in Greece. Alternate Shipping Minister for the caretaker government Christos Zois, held a press conference yesterday to report on the measures the government is taking, which include speeding up the documentation process so that refugees can move on to other countries. At a press conference, Zois said that more than 230,000 migrants had arrived in Greece in the first eight months of this year, compared with 17,500 in the same eight months last year; 80% were refugees. There were more than 157,000 arrivals in just July and August, he said. Zois also said that the government has received information that there could be millions more refugees waiting to cross into Europe through Greece.
Greece has not seen such an inflow of refugees since 1923, in the war between Greece and Turkey, when 1.5 million Greeks were transferred from Turkey and 500,000 Turks were transferred from Greece as part of the war settlement.
On the island of Lesbos, which has become especially hard hit, a Greek Orthodox Father Efstratios Dimou, or Papa Stratis, who had set up a non-governmental organization in 2009 to help refugees, died on Sept. 2. He had been active during the current crisis. He had told Amnesty International two years ago: “What I see are people. People in need. I cannot turn them away, nor can I kick them [out], nor imprison them. I cannot send them back to where they came from. Nor can I throw them in the sea to drown.”
Meanwhile, according to the EU border agency Frontex, 23,000 migrants arrived on the Greek islands by sea last week, a number 50% higher than the previous week.
Lesbos Mayor Spyros Galinos said that there may be more than 20,000 refugees on the island, and that some 10,000 have gathered around the port. “Over the last two months, the number of migrants that have passed through the island has exceeded its [permanent] population of 85,000,” he said, adding that the regular efforts to ferry people to Piraeus are having little effect because of the large numbers of refugees arriving on dinghies.