27 migrants were rescued from a sediment island in the Evros river on Wednesday, April 13. The river forms part of the land border between Greece and Turkey | Photo: InfoMigrants
27 migrants were rescued from a sediment island in the Evros river on Wednesday, April 13. The river forms part of the land border between Greece and Turkey | Photo: InfoMigrants

Greek rescue workers and border forces rescued 27 migrants from a small island in the Evros river on the border with Turkey.

The group of 27 migrants found themselves stranded on a small bank of sediment or shoal in the middle of the Evros river as waters rose around them, reported Greek local media via the German news agency dpa.

According to the agency, the migrants had been left on the shoal not far from the city of Orestiada by people smugglers. They had hoped to be able to continue crossing the river from Turkey and make it to the Greek shore, but they got stuck as the waters rose.

The nationality of the group of migrants has not yet been reported. After being rescued, the group were taken to a registration camp.

This is not the first time that migrants have been rescued from the river and some have drowned or frozen to death after getting stuck while crossing or swept away by storm water. In early April, a group of 34 were also rescued from the river after getting stranded.

According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, which were last updated on April 10, 1,064 people have already crossed the river border region from Turkey into Greece since the beginning of the year.

Crossing the land border

A total of 2,204 have crossed in to Greece overall since January 1, 2022. The most common nationality of origin for sea arrivals in Greece since January 2021 is Afghan, with people from Somalia following close behind.

Meanwhile, actually trying to claim asylum in Greece has become even harder, reported InfoMigrants French. There are just six registration centers for potential asylum seekers to lodge their claim. Five out of the six are situated on Aegean islands and one, Fylakio is not far from the Evros river and land border with Turkey.

On the islands, the centers can be found on Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. The new rules are the result of a government decree dated November 24, 2021. All the registration centers are closed centers which tend to have a bad reputation among migrants. Many migrant rights associations have repeatedly denounced living conditions in these centers. In the Fylakio center for instance, report InfoMigrants French, migrants do not have the right to leave the camp, they are detained for the time it takes to process their asylum claim.

'Everything has become extremely complicated'

Previously, asylum seekers could apply in many different places in Greece, including in centers in Thessaloniki. Now, says the director of the NGO Greek Council on Refugees Lefteris Papagiannakis, "everything has become extremely complicated. The right to apply for asylum exists but gaining access to this right has become an infernal process."

Papagiannakis told InfoMigrants French that the situation was just getting worse and worse. "The asylum offices were already struggling to cope and now they are busy processing displaced Ukrainians. It is very difficult to ask them to process anything else at the moment."

The representative for UNHCR in Greece Stella Nannou confirms Papagiannakis' analysis. "The situation is problematic. At the current time, people are not able to apply for asylum or receive instructions or information about how they might be able to do that in the future."

Also read: When an asylum claim is inadmissible

Those without papers risk detention

This has resulted in many of those migrants gravitating to Greek cities without any papers or registration process at all. Homeless and in many cases without easy access to legitimate funds. Corinne Linnecar, advocacy officer for the association Mobile Team Info which provides help to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, said that many of those arriving in Greece don’t actually want to start their asylum process there anyway.

For those who don’t have papers and are picked up by the police, a short stay in prison could follow. Many are sent to the detention center in Amygdaleza, a region of the Greek capital Athens, explains Linnecar. "They might then be held in detention or returned to Turkey."

According to the Border Violence Monitoring Network, some migrants are being picked up by the police in cities like Thessaloniki and then sent back towards Ankara in Turkey. The Greek Refugee Council says there are currently about 28,000 registered asylum seekers living in Greece. The majority come from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

With dpa and information and quotes from an InfoMigrants French article by Charlotte Boitiaux, published April 13, 2022 (Translation / adaptation by Emma Wallis)

 

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