Nov 12 2009
LESBOS, GREECE is being systematically invaded by Muslim illegal immigrants.
Stop the boat! Stop the boat now!” the captain of the Greek Coast Guard patrol vessel yelled over the bullhorn, turning a spotlight on the flimsy dinghy as it chugged toward this island in the Aegean Sea.
As the dinghy sputtered to a halt, a crowd of frightened faces squinted up into the light. Squeezed onto the 6-meter, or 20-foot, vessel were 30 Afghan migrants — men, women, children including babies — and their smugglers: two Turkish boys.
The interception occurred one Saturday night earlier this month. But the migrants, the smugglers and the coast guard officers are protagonists in a daily drama played out in this seven-kilometer-wide strait separating the island of Lesbos from the Turkish coast, one of the narrowest sea crossings between the two countries and a favored route for smuggling.
The dinghy piloted by the teenagers was one of hundreds of boats that were stopped in waters off Lesbos in patrols organized by the island’s coast guard in association with the E.U.’s border monitoring agency, Frontex. A total of 7,745 migrants have been detained on the island this year. This is partly because the patrols, ostensibly aimed at pushing back undocumented immigrants, often turn into rescue exercises.
“Smugglers often burst the dinghies as they know we will have to save the migrants while they escape,” the captain said. He said the Turkish teens might have been planning to do the same: They were wearing wet suits under their clothes which, when searched, revealed mobile phones but no weapons or identification documents.
Until last month, those arriving on Lesbos were put in a temporary reception center. But the facility, near the village of Pagani, was closed after overcrowding reached such levels that migrants started to riot, sparking protests by human rights groups.
“A trend of reduced migration flows in the Mediterranean region is not reflected in Greece, which remains the main entry point to the E.U. for illegal immigrants,” said Gil Arias Fernández, the deputy executive director of Frontex. The problem will persist, he said, “as long as Turkish authorities do not stop migrants near their border.”
Afghans dominate the influx of migrants, joined by a growing number of people from countries in North and West Africa, shunning routes via Italy and Spain because of repatriation pacts in force between these nations and their countries of origin. A similar agreement exists between Greece and Turkey, but the authorities in Greece complain that it is not being enforced by Ankara, despite pressure from the European Union. This hampers the patrols. READ MORE: NY TIMES via Winds of Jihad
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