Concerns rise amid migrant uptick, news of German plan to pressure Greece

20 August 2016
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The steady increase in refugee and migrant arrivals from neighboring Turkey to the Aegean islands fueled concerns in the ranks of the government on Friday amid reports that German authorities have a contingency plan to apply pressure on Greece in the event of the collapse of a deal between Ankara and the European Union to curb migration.

The report in weekly news magazine Der Spiegel indicates that Berlin has drafted a plan B to deal with the fallout of a possible collapse of the Turkey-EU migrant pact.

Citing a non-paper issued by the German government, Der Spiegel reveals a contingency plan foreseeing the possible application of economic pressure on Greece to oblige it to cooperate more closely with the EU’s monitoring agency Frontex in policing the bloc’s external borders.

The news comes as the number of migrants arriving on the islands of the eastern Aegean in smuggling boats has increased further in recent days, with a total of 261 reaching Greek shores on Thursday, nearly double the arrivals on Wednesday.

Of the 261 new arrivals, 139 landed on Lesvos, 61 on Chios, 18 on Samos, 15 on Leros and 28 on Karpathos. Since the beginning of August, 1,979 migrants have arrived on the islands, swelling the numbers in the overcrowded reception centers to 11,088. In total, 58,123 migrants are registered in the various state-run facilities across the country.

The government has pledged to close some of the substandard facilities, such as a makeshift camp at the capital’s old international airport at Elliniko, and set up new venues, including four on Crete, one in each of its prefectures.

Local authorities on Crete are concerned about the government’s plan to set up facilities there and have insisted on a meeting with Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas to air their grievances. “Unfortunately there is no comprehensive plan,” Crete’s regional governor, Stavros Arnaoutakis, told a meeting of local authority officials on Friday.

“We said that Crete should assume its responsibilities but subject to certain conditions,” he said.

Ierapetra Mayor Theodosios Kalantzakis said he wanted concrete promises from the government. “If we don’t have specific commitments, we won’t accept it,” he said.

“I say it clearly: Ierapetra will not accept even one refugee.”

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