Illegal crossings in Meriç River doubled

Illegal crossings in Meriç River doubled

Yorgo Kırbaki – ATHENS
Illegal crossings in Meriç River doubled

The number of irregular migrants crossing the Meriç (Evros or Maritsa) River to enter Greece from Turkey has more than doubled in the first nine months of 2018, compared with the whole year of 2017.

In the January-September period, some 12,000 migrants crossed the Meriç River, which forms the border between Turkey and Greece, Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas told parliament on Oct. 5.

The number was 3,300 in 2016, he added.

Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani nationals and citizens of several African countries constitute the majority of migrants violating the border rules via the Meriç River, according to data.

About 4,000 FETÖ suspects for whom warrants based on terrorism charges were issued by Turkish authorities are believed to have crossed the river since the defeated coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

FETÖ, as Turkish authorities refer to the Gülenist network, and its United States-based leader Fethullah Gülen are believed to have masterminded the putsch.

Ankara accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, including the military, police and judiciary.

Meanwhile, the number of migrants arriving in the Aegean islands of Greece from Turkey has reached 23,419 in the first nine months of 2017, representing a 17 percent increase year-on-year.

Another 560 people landed on the islands in the first four days of October, according to a statement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Athens.

Almost a third of those taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route were Syrian nationals.

Under a deal signed by Turkey and the European Union in 2016 to curb illegal immigration of the Syrians, Greece sends migrants back to Turkey, and in return, EU countries resettle the same number of Syrian migrants legally.

The deal and efforts to stop human smuggling have significantly reduced the number of illegal crossings in the Aegean.