Skip to main content

More migrants came to Greece in July than whole of 2014

More migrants have arrived in the EU in the month of July alone than in the entire year of 2014
Hundreds of migrants disembark from a ferry originating from the island on Lesbos, at the port of Piraeus near Athens on 11 July 2015 (AFP)

More illegal migrants and refugees arrived in the European Union through Greek borders this July than came through the country in the whole of last year, it was announced on Friday. 

According to Frontex, the EU agency that is tasked with securing EU’s external borders and supervising cooperation between national border guards, 49,550 migrants arrived on four Greek islands of Kos, Lesbos, Chios and Samos.

The July numbers exceed Greece's 2014 total when 41,700 migrants arrived in the country. In 2015, the number of migrants to come through Greece already stands at 130,500, with the summer migration season continuing, the agency said. 

The five-fold increase has prompted the United Nations to call on all member states of the EU to help Greece shoulder the burden of dealing with the mass arrivals, even if the vast majority only plan to use Greece as a transit point on their journey to richer EU states like Germany. 

“In terms of water, in terms of sanitation, in terms of food assistance, it’s totally inadequate,” said Vincent Cochetel, the UNHRC director for Europe. “On most of the four islands, there is no reception capacity, people are not sleeping under any form of roof.”

“So it’s total chaos on the islands,” he continued. “After a couple of days they are transferred to Athens - there is nothing waiting for them in Athens.”

The sentiment was echoed by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who told media on Friday that Greece lacks the infrastructure to deal with the thousands of migrants that arrive from war-torn countries to its shores.

“Now is the time to see if the EU is the EU of solidarity or an EU that has everyone trying to protect their borders,” he said.

Syrians and Afghans make up 90 percent of new arrivals at the Mediterranean islands and largely come in small rubber and fibre glass boats which are hazardous and can easily capsize.

While 188,000 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean so far this year, thanks to a stepping up in international coordination, at least 2,000 have died trying to make the perilous crossing, the International Organisation for Migration said earlier this week.

Frontex is coordinating Operation Poseidon 2015 to assist Greek authorities with border surveillance operations along its vast coastline, but with 6,000 islands spanning the breadth of the country, monitoring is proving extremely difficult.

“The fact that last month more migrants crossed the Greek borders than in the entire 2014 only underscores the need for Frontex to assist Greece in dealing with this crisis,” said Gil Arias Fernandez, Frontex’s deputy executive director.

“Two months ago we asked for new contributions to strengthen Poseidon and our operations in Hungary. Unfortunately, so far we have not received sufficient numbers of equipment and border guards.”

Under Operation Poseidon, Frontex currently has 11 coastal patrol boats, two coastal patrol vessels, one offshore patrol vessel, two helicopters and two aircraft. However, Fernandez appealed to the EU for more resources and said the current equipment was not enough.

“Despite additional funds, we may not be able to help the countries that need assistance unless we receive the necessary equipment,” he said. “I urge EU member states to consider pledging more assets needed by Frontex for these operations.”

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.