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Amr Salahi

Refugees make dangerous sea crossing to Greece after clampdown in Turkey

Increasing numbers of refugees are making a perilous sea journey from Turkey to Greece [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2019

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A monitoring organisation has reported a dramatic rise in the number of people arriving by boat in Greece, as refugees in Turkey face growing racism and the threat of deportation.

The number of refugees trying to reach Greece from Turkey has increased dramatically over the past week, a monitoring organisation has said, saying the sharp rise in numbers is mostly due to a hostile environment for Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees in Turkey.

The Aegean Boat Report, which collects information about refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey, said on its Facebook page that the Turkish Coastguard had stopped 111 boats in the week between 29th July and 4th August.

Around 3,350 refugees were detained by the coastguard, the highest number of migrants picked up during a seven-day period since 2015, when the refugee crisis was at its height.

Another 44 boats, carrying 1,326 refugees, managed to evade the Turkish coastguard and land on Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

There have been several incidents where refugees have drowned as they made the perilous journey from Turkey to the Greek Islands.

In 2016, Turkey and the European Union agreed to a deal under which refugees arriving in Greece would be returned to Turkey.

While the deal did reduce the flow of migrants trying to claim asylum in Europe, refugee support groups have said that it violates international law.

They also said the pact has made conditions worse for refugees both in Europe and in Turkey.

Thousands of refugees are being held indefinitely in overcrowded camps on Greek islands while Athens decides whether to grant asylum to the migrants or return them to Turkey.

However, conditions in Turkey have made refugees increasingly desperate to reach Greece and other EU countries.

"The issue is complex but most of the rise in the number of refugees arriving in Greece is due to the political shift in Turkey. People are afraid of being sent back to Syria or Afghanistan," a spokesperson for Aegean Boat Report told The New Arab. 

Turkey currently hosts over 3,500,000 Syrians as well as a smaller number of refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

In the past month, Syrian refugees in Istanbul have been detained arbitrarily by police and deported to Syria’s war-torn Idlib province. Last week, Hisham Mustafa, a refugee who had been deported to Syria was shot dead after he tried to cross back to Turkey from Syria to be with his wife and infant son.

He had been sent back to Syria 25 days earlier, despite having "temporary protection status" given to Syrian refugees by the Turkish government.

Racism against Syrian refugees in Turkey has also reportedly seen a sharp rise since Istanbul mayoral elections which were won by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Both the CHP and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) employed anti-refugee rhetoric in their election campaigns.

Syrians in Istanbul now face an uncertain fate after the Istanbul municipality gave refugees registered in other Turkish provinces until 20 August to leave the city.

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