By John Carr
Seven European Union countries have agreed to help fund a plan to repatriate some 5,000 migrants now languishing in camps on the Greek islands.
Signing off on the plan was the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has successfully been canvassing EU support for what is an increasingly critical situation on Greece’s border with Turkey. An estimated 20,000 migrants are now on the islands.
As the agreement was reached in Athens, bands of migrants repeatedly tried to storm the heavily-guarded land border with Greece along the Evros River. Aided by Turkish police the migrants, mostly young Middle Eastern men, threw petrol bombs over the barriers while the Greek border guards fought back with tear gas and water cannon.
Greece’s minister for public order said last night that the border will stay sealed, and no amount of violence will prevail against it. Any migrants who do manage to penetrate the frontier are quickly rounded up and jailed.
It remains uncertain when this new programme of funding migrants’ return will kick in. But the common view in Athens is that most migrants seeking asylum on the islands would rather put up with any inconvenience and official discouragement than face being sent back to Asia.