New border crossings into Greece: A revival of the old routes in the Aegean?

Kos
Beautiful Kos

Recently the greek news are talking of a revival of the old routes into Greece through the Aegean islands. Since two years Evros has been the main entrance for sans-papiers into Greece with steadily increasing numbers of arrivals. Since the beginning of the governments massive pogrom against sans-papiers in Athens but also in Evros and the further periphery in the beginning of this August, numbers of arrivals have been shrinking in Evros and increasing again slightly on the islands of the Aegean (mainly: Mytilini, Samos, Patmos, Leros, Symi etc.). In August 397 sans-papiers were arrested on the Aegean islands compared to 168 in 2011. The greek government following this increase and the medial hype around the “revival of the island routes” asked Frontex for more support in controlling their sea borders. The request concerns 4 additional aircrafts, 4 coast guard ships and specialised extra staff.
Concerning the fate of the arriving sans-papiers, as it seems, the authorities on the islands have the order to keep new arriving sans-papiers as long as possible in detention on the islands and not transfer them to Athens. In some cases solidarity group denounced the lack of access to the asylum procedure for the detained. In a long-term perspective if arrivals will continue and grow this could result in the creation of new detention places on the islands (or the re-opening of old ones). It is yet unclear if the slightly increasing arrivals on the islands can be interpreted as another change of routes or if it is more of a short term phenomenon. Clearly, the medial referral to a “revival” of the old routes and de facto arrivals of the last days anyway also lead to an increased use of a fascist discourse by some people within the local societies (i.e. in Symi but also elsewhere).

In Samos the local solidarity group published a number of press releases concerning the very poor detention conditions of newly arrived Syrian and Afghan refugees (among them also children, women and UN-recognized refugees from other countries) and the lack of access to the asylum procedure for the about 50-60 refugees. Since a few days the Syrian refugees are on hunger strike protesting their inhuman situation.

In Mytilini the last month there have been also repeated arrivals (50 and more in the last period). Sans-papiers seem to be detained in the police stations of the island.

In Symi a boat carrying 38 sans-papiers was seemingly shot by the authorities and thereafter sank (on September 4th). The passengers were saved and are in detention now. In total there were about 100 (or more) arrivals in this period. The police station does not fit any more detainees so that the new arriving have to stay in the yard and next to it in outside spaces. The Doctors without borders are offering some medical first aid, while the police is responsible for the catering. At the same time during a recent municipal council on the island one of the speakers proposed to call members of the fascist party GD (golden dawn) to “solve the problem” and “so that the guys don’t allow the boats of the coast guard to disembark the sans-papiers on the island”. The mayor of the island at some point said: “if nothing happens (from the side of the government?) then we have to tak the weapens and protect our island!”.

In Leros a few days ago 60 sans-papiers arrived – originally having arrived on Farmakonisi. Amog them were also small children. They were all detained in the yard of the coast guard and the police station.

In Rhodos 20-30 people were reported to have arrived in the last days. At the same time their are rumours about the construction of a new detention centre on Kos island.

Samos by Night of Facebook

Samos by Night
Samos by Night on Facebook

Social networking has embraced all that Samos nightlife has to offer, Samos by Night is a page set up on facebook which has over 2 thousand people following it.  It is constantly being updated with the islands social goings on.

Tourists Avoid Athens, Prefer Greek Island Cruising

Samos cruisingTourist agents appear optimistic as the data regarding the tourist reservations for the first six months of the year are showing better than expected results, with 6,336,370 visitors recorded. Greek airlines released a report showing that losses compared to the same time period last year were only 3.77%, while a much larger decline was expected.

Strife-ridden Athens has been strongly hit, however, with 240,000 fewer tourists compared to last year’s same months. The Halkidiki peninsula and Ionian islands such as Corfu and Kefalonia, on the contrary, showed strong results in attracting tourists.

The Northern city of Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest, is also doing better than expected during an economic crisis. On Aug. 9, the  Aida cruise ship arrived in port along with 1,413 tourists, most of whom were Germans, a country which has been feuding with Greece over austerity demands being pushed by international lenders and supported by Berlin.  A number of excursions has been planned to Halkidiki, Dion and Vergina, while other tourists will explore the city with bike tours. The cruise ship will also stop by at Samos island and is expected to return to Thessaloniki next year. The Aida will spend five nights on Thessaloniki port during 2013!

Ukrainian Tourists Allowed to Visit Greek Islands Without Schengen Visas

In a bid to attract more tourists, the Greek state has made the visa granting process much easier and less expensive in the past few months. According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Ukrainian tourists are now allowed to visit five Greek islands (Samos included) without being provided with Schengen visas by September 8.

Ukrainian News website reported that Ukrainians will have the chance to leave some Turkish harbors and stay on Greek Chios, Kos, Lesvos, Rhodes and Samos islands for 15 days.

The tourists will have to buy their tickets for the ferry or book a hotel on the islands by contacting to any travel agency. Within a day, they must submit a copy of their passports, a photo and a completed visa application form at the travel agencies. Then, the tour agents will send them via email to the Hellenic Immigration Service.

The visa fee that Ukranians will be asked to pay upon their arrival on the Greek islands is 35 euros.

Sources: GreekReporters