Greece alarmed by rising tides of migrants

Athens: Greece is facing increasing illegal immigration as the Gaza crisis continues. The trend has Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and senior European Union officials heading to Egypt Sunday to sign an aid package worth just over $8 billion intended to help ease migration.

A surge in illegal migration has seen numbers entering Greece swell by more than 400% in the last month alone.

Palestinians rank high in these flows but Egyptians are increasingly following suit.

“There is no doubt, that Egypt has suffered the greatest fallout of the crisis in Gaza,” said Migration and Asylum Minister Dimitris Keridis. “And as if the country and its economy was not strained enough, the Gaza crisis and inflow of Palestinians has exacerbated the situation, setting Egyptians to a massive flight.”

Since the start of the year, Greece’s southernmost islands of Crete and Gavdos have been hardest hit with daily flows of Egyptians landing on their shores, seeking refuge to the West via Libya.

On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will travel to Cairo with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to finalize an $8.06 billion aid package to shore up the Egyptian economy and help stem the tide of illegal immigration.

Under the planned deal, a first tranche of $1 billion will be dispersed immediately as emergency financial assistance. The rest, will be tied to economic reforms.

Greece has been a favored gateway to the European Union for migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia since 2015, when nearly 1 million people landed on its islands, causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Thousands others have since then died at sea.

The migration crisis has seen Greece take a strong-arm approach to fend off illegal flows, triggering, however, accusations that it is pushing back migrants on rickety rafts, endangering their lives, even torturing them upon arrival.

Authorities have largely refuted the accusations but migrants are increasingly speaking up.

Last week, four Greek bodyguards were arrested for beating a migrant, battering his face and breaking his ribs, according to a migrant’s testimony. An urgent investigation is underway.