Greece fears new Syrian migration wave
ATHENS - Greece must "fortify" itself against illegal immigration, fearing a new wave from conflict-torn Syria, the public order minister said on Monday as officials reported pressure on maritime borders.
"Measures were discussed... to fortify the Aegean Sea," Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that also included the ministers of defence and shipping.
"A migration wave is starting to show, it has not yet reached Greece in large numbers, currently it is heading to Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, but the country must be ready," Dendias said.
More than 250,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the 18-month violence that has killed more than 27,000 people according to activists.
Turkey currently hosts some 80,000 refugees in several camps in the southeast bordering Syria. But it has warned it can handle no more than 100,000 refugees.
Greece, battling a five-year recession and insolvency and already home to hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers over the past decade, is also unable to cope with the strain.
Police reinforcements have been sent to Greece's northeastern border with Turkey, the main overland route used by migrant smugglers, but the flow appears to have switched to the Aegean Sea islands facing the Turkish mainland.
"I wake up every morning and say, 'Has anything happened to Syria today?'" the prime minister told the Washington Post over the weekend.
"If something happens in Syria, thousands of people would be flowing into Greece. Illegal immigrants are already a very big problem for us. We are already taking big steps to disallow illegal immigrants from coming in. Imagine if that number is multiplied by 10," Samaras said.