As the situation for refugees and migrants in Turkey is going from bad to worse, particularly for Afghans, a growing number of them is trying to reach the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Many of these islands are mere kilometers away from the Turkish coast. InfoMigrants answers important questions about the worsening crisis, including how it came to a head.
In the last few months, the number of refugees who crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greek islands has risen once more. Many Afghans in particular leave Turkey after the government heightened the pressure on migrants without valid papers.
Since Germany wants to prevent a new ‘refugee crisis’ at all costs, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer will travel to Turkey and Greece to hold talks on Thursday and Friday.
What’s the current situation on the Aegean islands?
- More than 35,800 refugees have arrived on the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea since the beginning of the year, according to UNHCR
- An additional 9,700 refugees crossed the Turkish-Greek land border during the same period
- The Moria reception camp is hopelessly overcrowded, currently housing some 12,000 refugees and migrants - more than four times its capacity
- A fire there on Sunday killed a migrant woman and caused severe unrest; in August, a minor was killed there during a violent brawl
- The Greek government has started bringing people to the mainland - this week, they transferred 215 refugees
How did the crisis come about?
- According to the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal, all new arrivals from Turkey in Greece must stay on the Aegean islands until their asylum applications are decided
- Those who are rejected need to return to Turkey
- Because Greek authorities are vastly overstretched, the asylum process takes much longer than planned
- Very few people are actually sent back to Turkey
- Among new arrivals, Afghans were by far the largest group on the Greek Aegean islands with nearly 40 percent
- Syrians were the second-largest group with 20,6 percent, followed by Congolese, Iraqis and Palestinians
- Roughly one in three of the 30,500 refugees on Greek islands are children, UNHCR says
- 20 percent of all minors are unaccompanied, most of them from Afghanistan
Why are so many Afghans coming?
- US sanctions against Iran have plunged the economy there into crisis
- That’s why many Afghans who worked in construction and other areas left to find work in Turkey
- But the Turkish government has upped the pressure on refugees without valid papers
- The economic crisis in Turkey has negatively changed the population’s attitude toward refugees
Why do so many refugees want to leave Turkey?
- In Turkey, non-Syrian refugees don’t have a permanent resident status
- Many non-Syrian single men aren’t registered as refugees
- This makes the situation for the 170,000 Afghans and the 142,000 Iraqis in Turkey precarious
- The Turkish government says it has arrested over 300,000 refugees without papers and deported tens of thousands of Afghans since January
- Many refugees now try to leave the country
What is Erdogan planning?
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to "open the gates" to Europe unless the EU provided more help
- In particular, he wants support for his plan to settle one million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey in a "safe zone"
- This proposed zone would be along the Turkish border in the Kurdish regions in northern Syria
- Many experts deem this plan unrealistic
What is the EU doing for refugees in Turkey?
- Under the EU-Turkey refugee deal, the European Union promised €6 billion to Turkey to provide for the Syrian refugees there
- €2.4 billion have been paid out so far, the EU says
- Erdogan regularly says this is not nearly enough
- Europe has also agreed to take in 7,200 refugees from Turkey, the UN says
- Germany is to take in 2,400 of them
With material from AFP