Sputnik — Greek authorities have sent extra personnel to the land border it shares with Turkey, preparing for a wave of migrants from the Middle East.
Greece’s land border with Turkey faces more immigrants than it’s coast, according to a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) report, as some 2,900 people are said to have crossed the border in April.
The only migrant reception centre is unable to process incoming requests and without appropriate accommodation, asylum seekers are put into police detention facilities.
“Some of those in police detention have been held for more than three months,” UNHCR said in a statement. “Conditions are dismal […] the hundreds of people kept include pregnant women, very young children and people in need of medical and psychosocial care.”
Since Turkish forces began their military invasion at Afrin, Syria, code-named operation Olive Branch, the Kurdish population in the region has begun fleeing to Greece, according to border registration data.
A new wave of migrants is expected after water levels in local rivers drop with the changing weather.
“We’re worried that as the weather improves and water levels go down, more will brave the journey because the river will be easier to cross,” said Ruben Cano, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Greece.
“We’re sending a mission to the area this week. We have relief stocks of blankets, sleeping mats and tents. The government has plans to reopen former camps and expand the capacity of those that exist but experience has told us it may not scale up fast enough.”
Curiously, the land border between Greece and Turkey does not fall under a controversial migrant deal struck in March 2016, while it is said to be much easier to cross than the maritime border.
Under the deal, migrants who reach the eastern Aegean islands must remain in place until processed, which is reportedly an excruciatingly slow process. Currently, some 15,000 migrants are effectively stranded on the islands, stirring unrest among the local population.
Local officials refer to the situation on the islands as a ticking time bomb.
“Lesbos has 8,095 migrants and refugees when the corresponding number last year was 3,050,” said the north Aegean regional governor, Christiana Kalogirou.
“The islands are like a cauldron ready to boil over,” she warned.