The ongoing refugee crisis in Greece continues to show no signs of abating. EU border agency Frontex announced that the flow of people into some parts of the country has increased by a quarter compared to last year.
According to data released by Frontex, the main problem is the rising number of illegal arrivals on the islands of the eastern Aegean.
''The Eastern Mediterranean remained the busiest migratory route into Europe with nearly 5,800 detections in July 2019'', said Frontex in a statement. ''In the first seven months of this year, the total number of detections in this region was down 6 percent from a year ago to almost 28,200. Despite the overall decrease, the number of arrivals on the Greek islands in the Aegean increased by a quarter compared to the same period of last year," the statement added.
"Most of the migrants detected on this route were nationals of Afghanistan," said Frontex.
Aegean islands 'strangled' by overcrowding
Earlier this month, Greece's Alternate Minister of Citizens' Protection Giorgos Koumoutsakos, who is also responsible for migration issues, said that the eastern Aegean Islands were suffering from ''strangulation'' due to overcrowding at migrant camps.
"The islands right now are suffering from strangulation due to overcrowding at the facilities, and there is a need for more effective border guarding, and concern over possible increased flows in the coming period," said a statement from the Ministry of Citizens' Protection. "Legislation is also being drafted to try to speed up asylum procedures'' and a meeting also discussed ''the need for a more efficient return process to Turkey, as well as to other countries."
"Strengthening the relevant infrastructure and personnel services and addressing the impact on tourism is also paramount, as concerns were expressed about the impact that the refugee issue is having on tourism," the statement added.
Greece's government is stepping up efforts to speed up asylum procedures to lighten the burden on overcrowded refugee camps on the Aegean islands, while also ensuring the safety of local communities. The country's well-documented struggle with thousands of migrants who continue to arrive on the shores of Lesvos, Chios and Samos is continuing and the recently-installed New Democracy government says it is keen to tackle key issues.
Greece's previous Syriza-led government was often criticized for not doing enough for local communities on the islands to guarantee safety, and this is something that Koumoutsakos said he plans to focus on with his team. "A key priority moving forward is to strengthen the sense of security of the citizens and addressing major problems at the facilities in order to improve the current, problematic situation on the islands'', said Koumoutsakos.
The ongoing refugee crisis remains a huge thorn in Greece's side. The country has been welcoming huge influxes of refugees since the outbreak of the crisis in 2015, and it is still struggling to cope with the thousands of asylum seekers at camps across the country. Many live in dire conditions at camps like Moria on Lesvos, as well as on Chios and Samos. Overall, it is estimated that Greece's population of asylum seekers will surpass the 90,000 mark by the end of 2019 at current rates.
With the systems and infrastructure in place, Greece's outgoing Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas said last month that the country only has the capacity to process 20,000 asylum applications every year, whereas the number of applications received in 2018 were 67,000.