On Monday, as part of an agreement reached with the European Union, Greece will begin returning migrants to Turkey en masse—despite having approximately one tenth of the 2,300 border management officers needed for the job.
“We do not know how this operation will proceed...This is being done for the first time and it raises unprecedented legal issues as well,” Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for the Greek government’s refugee crisis committee, told The Associated Press.
There are over 46,000 migrants and refugees living on the Greek mainland. Of that, nearly 20,000 live in makeshift camps on Greece’s northern border. This number rises daily, as The Associated Press points out:
The looming implementation of the deal and the closure of European borders have slowed the flow of people into Greece but not stopped it altogether. In the 24 hours leading to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, 514 arrived, according to authorities. There are now over 6,100 migrants in the Aegean islands, more than half in Lesbos.
Migrants living in Greece say the process to apply for asylum is often unclear and many migrants living in makeshift camps simply refuse to budge, hoping for nearby borders to open, as rumors spread by alleged “migrant exploitation networks” say they will.
What’s more, many in the European Union suspect that Russia is stoking the continent’s migrant crisis for its own gain. According to The New York Times, migrants traveling via Russia’s Arctic border are often guided by organizations with connections to government officials.
The one group that needs no convincing about Russia’s manipulation of the migrant issue is the migrants themselves.
In interviews in Kandalaksha, stranded migrants from West and Central Africa said they had each paid thousands of dollars to “guides” who promised to get them to Finland and who worked closely with Russian officials. The system was highly organized, the migrants said, with no more than 30 people allowed to make the journey to Finland each day. Who went when, and in which vehicle, was established in advance, they said, with the guides and officials drawing up detailed lists with names, departure dates and cars.
So, now, Greece has to return the better part of nearly 50,000 migrants—with hundreds more arriving each day, and hundreds more again circulating through underground, politically motivated networks—to Turkey, which has been accused of illegally returning Syrians to their homeland by Amnesty International. Great.