Posted on August 11, 2015

Greece Pleads for Help as Refugee Influx Sparks ‘Crisis’

Duncan Robinson and Kerin Hope, Financial Times, August 7, 2015

Greece faces “a crisis within a crisis” as Athens struggles to cope with the sudden influx of refugees and migrants, sparking fears of a humanitarian disaster at Europe’s border.

Almost 50,000 people entered Greece in July alone–more than the country received during all of 2014–according to Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency UNHCR described the migrants’ situation on Kos, Chios and Lesbos, three Greek islands traditionally popular with tourists, as “total chaos”, with arrivals sleeping rough.

“Greece faces a crisis within a crisis,” said Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, who held an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday to accelerate the disbursement of more than €400m in emergency EU funds for refugees.

“The migrant flows exceed the capacity of our state infrastructure,” he added. “We’re making every effort to provide humanitarian aid, but we need the EU to respond immediately.”

The vast numbers of mostly Middle Eastern and African asylum seekers and migrants entering the EU has left the union facing its biggest influx of refugees since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. {snip}

Officials in both Brussels and Athens have given warning that Greece is in dire need of support to handle the arrivals, who now number 130,500 since the start of the year–a fivefold increase on 2014, according to Frontex.

Greece has overtaken Italy as the main point of arrival for people fleeing countries such as Syria and Eritrea. In total, Greece has accounted for roughly half of the 224,000 asylum seekers and migrants who have entered the EU so far this year, according to the UNHCR.


The challenge posed by this growing crisis has created a political fault line within the EU, with member states deeply divided.

Britain’s complaints about the relatively small numbers of people trying to enter the UK from Calais have exasperated diplomats in other capitals.

The UK was one of only three countries–alongside Austria and Hungary–to refuse to take part in a scheme aimed at sharing out up to 40,000 asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy.

In the end, leaders could agree to share out a maximum of only 32,000 from the two countries, despite both Paris and Berlin throwing their weight behind the scheme.