‘Purge’ of  migrants in Istanbul sparking concerns in Greece’s Evros - Kathimerini

The October 30 deadline given by Turkish authorities to Istanbul’s Syrian refugees to leave the megacity for their provinces of registration or face forceful migration is sparking concern in neighbouring Greece’s northeastern Evros region of a possible influx of undocumented migrants.

Over the past few months, Turkish authorities have implemented a crackdown on the country’s some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, particularly those in the country’s larger cities. Syrian refugees with protection permits issued in other provinces must leave Istanbul, home to over 500,000, or face forceful migration. 

The first police sweep in Istanbul a few weeks ago, leading to tens of thousands of refugees being transferred from Istanbul to the Turkish hinterland, coincided with a spike in arrivals of undocumented migrants on the Aegean islands, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported. 

A move by the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to threaten “clearing out” Istanbul is fuelling more concern for Greek authorities at the border as the migrants are expected to choose fleeing to the Aegean islands via Evros, rather than be moved to camps in southeast Turkey, it said.

The number of migrants crossing illegally from Turkey to Europe has tripled in recent weeks with the number of arrivals to Greece increasing to 278 from 60 a day, The Times reported last month.

“All these years, we in Evros have basically been faced with an unofficial war, with the pressure constantly increasing and us trying to respond to it with our limited and outdated resources,”  Kathimerini quoted a Greek police source as saying. 

Pointing to the anti-refugee sentiment that is sweeping Turkey, Kathimerini said Erdoğan’s threat of “opening the gates” to Europe in the case of an influx of refugees from Syria should not be taken lightly. 

Erdoğan has repeatedly said Ankara was ready to lift the gates to the country’s refugees in the absence of the envisaged safe zone in neighbouring Syria, where renewed fighting in the northwestern province of Idlib in recent weeks has raised prospects of another wave of refugees at its’ borders. 

“What is to happen though with the countless illegal immigrants in the shanty towns of Istanbul, who are waiting for an opportunity to reach Europe via Greece?’’ Kathimerini said.