Migrant Arrivals on Greece’s Lesvos Island Approach 10,000 This Week

Posted: 
08/21/15
Themes: 
Missing Migrants

Greece - IOM monitors this week reported that on the Greek island of Lesvos, newly arrived migrants between Friday, August 14 and the night of Wednesday, August 19 reached 9,464.

These arrivals come during a period of record detections of irregular entries of migrants across Europe, according to Frontex, which in July reported a total of 107,500 irregular entries in the month of July.

For 2015’s first seven months, Frontex reported 340,000 total detections of irregular entry (all routes, both land and sea borders), which compares with 123,500 recorded in the same period of last year, and 280,000 for all of 2014.

The July figure more than triples that of same month last year, surpassing the 100,000 mark in a single month for the first time since Frontex began keeping records in 2008. IOM analysts in Brussels note that July’s figure was the third consecutive monthly record, well past the previous high of over 70,000 reached in June.

Greece remains the busiest destination for migrants entering Europe. IOM monitors in Greece this morning report that since June 1, a total of 141,912 have arrived just on a handful of Aegean Sea islands (see chart below).

According to IOM staff on Lesvos—who liaise closely with the Hellenic Police and Coast Guard—this makes the week the busiest for migrant flows from Turkey this year. 

With the peak summer tourist season underway, most newcomers are unable to immediately secure passage on a commercial ferry to leave the island and travel to Athens.

They therefore have to camp near the port and in parks in the old city of Mitilini. Shelters in Kara Tepe and Moria are already full to capacity.

Migrants have to wait for a long time to register with the police, due to the crowds of new arrivals. The weather is extremely hot weather and relations between different nationalities are extremely tense, IOM staffers say. 

Lesvos, population 86,000, is ill-equipped to deal with the unprecedented number of new arrivals. The migrants often need to walk long distances from the beaches where they land to reach the offices where they are screened and given temporary permits to stay in Greece. IOM staff on the island provide them with information on their post-arrival rights and options.

The Hellenic Ministry of Immigration Policy and the South Aegean Prefecture have now hired a cruise ship, the “Eleytherios Venizelos”, to provide accommodation to nearly 2,500 refugees in the island of Kos.

The ship departed Kos on Wednesday, making stops on South Aegean islands including Lesvos, Kalymnos and Leros, to take on board newly arrived migrants and relieve congestion on the islands. Syrians were apparently given priority boarding. On Thursday, 20th August, the ship arrived at the port of Piraeus, near Athens.

As a consequence of enhanced surveillance along the EU land borders with Turkey (Bulgaria-Turkey and Greece-Turkey), the main migration flows from Turkey towards the EU are taking place via the Eastern Mediterranean Sea route. With sea borders about 6,530 km in length, Turkey plays key role as a transit and destination country for migrants heading towards EU countries.

IOM staff in Turkey report that rescues facilitated by the Turkish Coast Guard (TCG) through 6 August 2015 rose dramatically to 30,846, compared with 14,961 in the whole of 2014, 8,047 in 2013 and 2,531 in 2012. Approximately 82 per cent of those rescues in 2015 took place at the Mediterranean. The top four nationalities include Syrians (75 per cent), Afghans (15 per cent), Burmese (5 per cent) and Eritreans (5 per cent.) 

In order to carry out  lifesaving activities and with  the need to fight against organized crime groups, the TCG launched two special operations – “Safe-Med” (with 900 personnel continuously engaged in patrolling and rescue operations) and “Aegean Hope” (with 1,100 personnel).

Under Operation Aegean Hope, during the period from 1 May to 6 August, 24,017 migrants were rescued, of whom 17,193 were Syrian nationals. By comparison, 1,874 migrants have been rescued by Operation Safe-Med since August 2014.

IOM Turkey works closely with the TCG and monitors the situation on Turkey’s blue borders. IOM Turkey will shortly launch a project: “Enhancing Humanitarian Border Management by Strengthening the Capacity of Turkish Coast Guard (TCG)” to save migrants’ lives in the Mediterranean.

The project will include supplying food and non-food relief items for migrants; establishing IOM focal points for distributions; organizing referrals to meet special needs; provision of transport; and conducting capacity building to prepare for emergencies, identify victims of trafficking and other vulnerable migrants; and analysis to tackle cross border crime.

Point of arrival

June (Official Data)

July (Official Data)

*August – Until August 19th, 2015               (Unofficial Data)

Lesvos

16,742

26,174

32,857

Chios

5,419

9,066

6,000

Samos

2,826

7,113

9,391

A’ Dodecanese

  • Rhodes
  • Karpathos
  • Symi
  • Tilos
  • Megisti

1,565

2,277

2,400

B’ Dodecanese

  • Kos
  • Leros
  • Kalymnos

5,387

10,866

3,829

Total:

31,939

55,496

54,477

* Hellenic Police estimates.

The latest Mediterranean Update infographic on rescues and fatalities is available here:  http://missingmigrants.iom.int

For further information please contact IOM Greece. Daniel Esdras, Tel: +30 210 9912174,
Email: iomathens@iom.int or Kelly Namia, Tel: +302109919040, +302109912174, 
Email: knamia@iom.int. Or Emrah Guler at IOM Turkey, Tel: +903124541138,
Email: eguler@iom.int. Or Ryan Schroeder at IOM RO Europe, Tel:  +32 2 287 71 16,
Email: rschroeder@iom.int.