Aid and Attention Dwindling, Migrant Crisis Intensifies in Greece

NEA KAVALA, Greece — As her young children played near heaps of garbage, picking through burned corn cobs and crushed plastic bottles to fashion new toys, Shiraz Madran, a 28-year-old mother of four, turned with tear-rimmed eyes to survey the desolate encampment that has become her home.

This year, her family fled Syria, only to get stuck at Greece’s northern border with Macedonia in Idomeni, a town that had been the gateway to northern Europe for more than one million migrants from the Middle East and Africa seeking a haven from conflict. After Europe sealed the border in February to curb the unceasing stream, the Greek authorities relocated many of those massed in Idomeni to a camp on this wind-beaten agricultural plain in northern Greece, with promises to process their asylum bids quickly.

But weeks have turned into months, and Mrs. Madran’s life has spiraled into a despondent daily routine of scrounging for food for her dust-covered children and begging the authorities for any news about their asylum application. “No one tells us anything — we have no idea what our future is going to be,” she said.

“If we knew it would be like this, we would not have left Syria,” she continued. “We die a thousand deaths here every day.”

Seven months after the European Union shut the doors to large numbers of newcomers, Greece remains Europe’s de facto holding pen for 57,000 people trapped amid the chaos. Many are living in a distressing limbo in sordid refugee camps on the mainland and on Greek islands near Turkey.

A year after the world was riveted by scenes of desperate men, women and children streaming through Europe, international attention to their plight has waned now that the borders have been closed and they are largely confined to camps. Anti-immigrant sentiment has surged since last year in many countries, especially as people who entered Europe with the migrant flow are linked to crimes and, in a few cases, attacks planned or inspired by the Islamic State or other radical groups. Neither the prosperous nations of Western and Northern Europe, where the refugees want to settle, nor Turkey, their point of departure for the Continent, are living up to their promises of help.

In visits to four camps around Greece — on the island of Lesbos, on the northern Greek mainland and outside Athens — migrants already seared by conflict and poverty voiced common concerns about inadequate food and health care. They grappled with squalid living conditions, fears over their children’s health and education, and the psychological toll of living in constant uncertainty.

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Migration to Greece by the Aegean Sea Has Plummeted, U.N. Says

The number of migrants risking the perilous voyage from Turkey to Greecevia the Aegean Sea has plummeted, according to new figures released by the United Nations, a sign that a deal brokered by the European Union in March to ease the migration crisis has shown some success.

Under the deal, asylum seekers who use illegal routes to reach the Greek islands from Turkey are being sent back. Turkey is set to receive about $6.6 billion in aid to help the migrants there, many of them from Syria. In return, the European Union will resume negotiations over Turkey’s application to join the 28-nation bloc, and will resettle one Syrian from a camp in Turkey in exchange for each Syrian who is sent back to Turkey.

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Turkey Blocks Expansion of NATO’s Aegean Mission

The U.S., U.K. and Germany are pushing to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s naval mission to combat human smuggling in the Aegean Sea but face objections from Turkey, which is seeking to end the operation. Read the rest of this entry »

EU-Turkey agreement report shows drop in crossings to Greece

According to a report issued by the EU, the bloc’s refugee agreement with Turkey is working as planned. However, outstanding issues still remain on the deal, which has put strain on both the EU and Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress made on Cyprus issue: US

Advances have been made in the long-running Cyprus negotiation process between the Turkish and Greek sides of the Mediterranean island, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on June 13.

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Greece sends more migrants to Turkey

Greek officials said two boats carrying 124 migrants – most of them Pakistani men – had been sent back across the Aegean Sea where hundreds have lost their lives in a quest to reach Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey stops over 50,000 EU bound refugees in sea and ground operations

At least 50,000 refugees trying to reach Europe illegally have been found in sea and ground operations by the Turkish authorities in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Greece starts sending refugees back to Turkey

Greek authorities on Tuesday sent a group of refugees who illegally entered the country back to Turkey, as part of the readmission agreement signed between the European Union and Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »

Turkish Coast Guard outposts to ease handling of migrant flow

The Coast Guard, struggling with an incessant flow of illegal migrants heading to Europe, is set to boost its presence along the lengthy Aegean coast, and to speed up the legal process by establishing outposts. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian ship sets sail for NATO Aegean mission

The Canadian navy’s HMCS Fredericton has set sail for the Aegean Sea to take part in the new NATO mission to fight human traffickers and reduce the number of refugees crossing from Turkey to the European Union in search of a better life.
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