People thought that money and mother nature would do the trick, believing that the winter chill, as well as a €3 billion gift to Turkey would help stem the flow of desperate people crossing the sea border into Europe, via Greece’s frontier islands.
But neither has been the case. Winds and high seas haven’t stopped the boats from arriving and no one really knows what Turkey did with the billions it was given.
One thing is for certain, there’s a perfect storm brewing and its eye is Greece.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) announced today that it has closed its border with Greece to undocumented travelers (refugees) leaving tens of thousands stuck in Greece.
“The border is closed,” a senior Fyrom police official told AFP. The move has left hundreds of refugees stranded in Greece who were en route to other northern European countries. A police spokesman in northern Greece told the agency that the border has been closed since Tuesday evening.
According to figures provided by the Greek coast guard, arrivals so far for January 2016 are 31,244— 21 times more than all of January 2015.
Aid workers on the island of Lesvos were dealing with increased numbers of boats arriving from Turley. As recently as Wednesday morning, a Facebook post from Lighthouse Refugee Relief, operating in the fishing village of Skala Sikamnias, where many refugees are arriving, posted a bleak announcement:
Today, we mourn the death of a 4 year old boy who came unresponsive with a rescue boat early in the morning to the little village harbour. The medics couldn’t resuscitate him and the grieving father was cared for in a coffee shop, everyone in the village struck by sadness and anger that this tragedy and injustice continues. It is happening in front of our eyes, and the world knows it.
And then, a Frontex boat full with shivering people arrived in the harbor outside the almost silent café, with an unconscious woman carried off on a stretcher. She was receiving CPR, but it was too late also for her.
We mourn two more unnecessary deaths on the cold Aegean Sea together with two more families in grief.
The air and the sea is freezing cold. 12 boats came to Skala this morning, around 600 people, many of them have waited in the ice cold forests on the Turkish side for days without proper food, water or sanitation.
The medics in our camp treated many hypothermic cases and three children with severe stages of hypothermia were able to continue their journey after receiving care in our camp clinic. 34% of all arrivals on Lesvos right now are children, very sensitive to the cold.
The organization went on to say that the “situation is very acute right” and appealed for as much support as possible to provide assistance to the refugees arriving on Lesvos with emergency relief. Lighthouse is accepting donations here.