EU reagerer på Hellas manglende evne til å kontrollere grensen mot Tyrkia. Mens Hellas strever med en kriserammet økonomi og politisk uro, er grenseområdet Evros River valley blitt den foretrukne ruten for menneskesmuglere og illegale innvandrere inn i Europa. Trenden utfordrer den greske regjeringens ressurser, øker støtten til ultranasjonalistiske grupper i rammede bysentra og øker spenningen mellom Aten og EU.

I følge EUs byrå for grensekontroll, Frontex, har til tider så mange som 90 prosent av de illegale innvandrerne krysset grensen fra Tyrkia til Hellas i det aktuelle området. Den største gruppen som ankommer via Tyrkia er pakistanere og afghanere.

I år venter Hellas at mer enn 100.000 innvandrere vil ankomme landet. Det er uklart hvor mange illegale innvandrere og asylsøkere som oppholder seg i Hellas, men antallet anslås å ligge et sted mellom 400.000 og 700.000:

But once they have experienced desperate conditions and joblessness in Greece, few migrants express a desire to stay. Many say it is far easier to enter Greece than to sneak into another EU country, a journey that often requires paying smugglers for fake documents to board a flight, or attempting risky overland and overseas routes.

Greece is «a big cage,» said one Afghan migrant.

While the country’s total count of undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers isn’t clear, some academics place the number at 400,000 to 700,000. As homeless, unemployed migrants fill city squares and parks in Greece’s struggling cities, anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise, with violent, racist attacks reaching «alarming proportions,» according to Human Rights Watch. In Athens last spring, the group said, far-right extremists went on a violent spree in neighborhoods populated by immigrants, leaving as least 25 people in the hospital with beatings or stab wounds.

Foreigners’ growing presence has helped bring new support to the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, which vows to «undirty» Greece from migrants. The country’s mainstream parties, already struggling to draw voters amid Greece’s economic crisis, have adopted a harsher line on immigration.

«It’s necessary to reclaim our cities,» says Antonis Samaras, whose center-right New Democracy party finished first in Sunday’s national election. He has called illegal immigrants «tyrants.»

Human-rights groups have long criticized Greece for a dysfunctional, backlogged asylum system. They say Athens has failed to fulfill its obligation to provide shelter and services to asylum-seekers, and cite inhumane conditions in migrant detention centers.

The Greek government says it is making improvements to detention centers and its asylum system, but is overwhelmed by the influx. «The result of all this is tragic for a country that is facing an economic crisis,» Greek Minister for Citizen Protection Michalis Chrisochoidis told reporters last month.

I henhold til Dublin-avtalen ligger ansvaret for å behandle en asylsøknad hos landet hvor asylsøkeren først ankom, men ifjor stanset Den europeiske menneskerettsdomstolen (EMD) overføringen av en afghansk asylsøker fra Belgia til Hellas, på grunnlag av de dårlige forholdene. Etter denne dommen har flere europeiske land stanset retur av asylsøkere til Hellas.

Siden 2007 har EU-kommisjonen overført 304 millioner euro (2,3 milliarder NOK) til Hellas for å styrke håndteringen av den omfattende innvandringen til landet. Frontex bidrar også med grenseovervåkning og identifisering av illegale innvandreres nasjonalitet, noe som er første del av en potensiell deporteringsprosess.

Afghans and Pakistanis recently accounted for the largest groups entering Greece over the Turkish border, says the agency.

The Greek Citizen Protection Ministry says it wants to begin removing undocumented arrivals from cities by creating 30 detention centers that together will hold approximately 30,000, and to step up deportations.

Yet deportations or readmission of migrants to Turkey are often unlawful or vastly complicated, say Greek officials. Many migrants, once detained by Greek police, are released after a short time along with a form ordering them to leave the country within 30 days, officials say, but most migrants invariably stay longer.

The government is also constructing a 6.4-mile fence along a particularly porous part of its border with Turkey. That plan has drawn criticism as an ineffective gimmick from elsewhere in the EU, where political leaders complain that many undocumented migrants are moving north from Greece.

Noen politikere, blant dem Tysklands innenriksminister Hans-Peter Friedrich, mener at Hellas` manglende evne til håndtere problemet, undergraver Schengen-avtalens prinsipp om åpne grenser mellom medlemslandene. – Hvis land som Hellas mislykkes i å kontrollere de eksterne grensene, må vi ha muligheten til å innføre midlertidig kontroll av de interne grensene. De åpne grensene internt bør ikke bli en port for tilstrømming av illegale innvandrere, uttalte Friedrich i Rheinische Post i forrige uke.

Men ifølge den greske regjeringen er det ingen tegn til at tilstrømmingen over grensen fra Tyrkia vil avta:

While some migrants crossing the border speak about the ease of their journey, others perish trying.

Some who drowned trying to cross the Evros River are buried in rows of unmarked graves in Sidro, a Greek mountain village not far from the border that is populated by a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority.

«They think they’re going to find a good life,» says Hasan Saramet, a 70-year-old mosque leader who performs Muslim burials.

Passing by the graves on a recent afternoon, he pointed to one of the fresher mounds, where he said a 16-year-old girl from Afghanistan lay. Her sister, he said, was still missing.

«Oh, how the parents cried,» the imam said of the funeral.

Even as some risk their lives to enter Greece, a few migrants on the border could be seen trying to escape.

Ahmed Takia, a 40-year-old Algerian, said he had crossed into Greece three weeks prior, hopping on trains and crisscrossing the land in search of work. He didn’t find any. Emaciated after scrounging for food in garbage cans, he decided to make the return journey back into Turkey, where he hoped his chances of finding work might be better.

«I was thinking Europe,» he said. «But in the end, nothing.»

Wall Street Journal: Greece’s Migrant Influx Spurs EU Anger
Crossing Border From Turkey, Many Move Into Europe, Raising Tensions; ‘Tragic for a Country Facing Economic Crisis’

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