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Greece braces for fresh influx of tens of thousands of migrants

A refugee camp in Turkey is preparing to release tens of thousands of migrants sparking fears they will flee to EU member state Greece, satellite images suggest. 

Greek authorities have increased coastguard, air force and navy patrols in preparation for an influx of migrants.

Satellite images taken in Turkey appear to show asylum seekers being moved from inland facilities to coastal regions.  

Satellite images taken in Turkey appear to show asylum seekers being moved from inland facilities to coastal regions

A refugee camp in Turkey is preparing to release tens of thousands of migrants sparking fears they will flee to EU member state Greece , reports suggest

A refugee camp in Turkey is preparing to release tens of thousands of migrants sparking fears they will flee to EU member state Greece , reports suggest 

Areas along Turkey’s west coast are notoriously used by illegal people smugglers to traffic desperate refugees to nearby Greek islands by boat.

The current migration fears are reminiscent of 2015 to 2016 crisis where more than one million people, mostly fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Asia, reached the EU via Turkey and Greece. 

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said authorities now ‘have seen signs of activity’ on the shores of Turkey.

‘We will … continue to do whatever it takes to defend our sovereign rights and guard the borders of Greece and Europe,’ he said. 

A Greek government official told The Times: ‘We have noticed some suspicious movements.

Areas along Turkey's west coast (where the refugees are being transported to, pictured) are notoriously used by illegal people smugglers to traffic desperate refugees to nearby Greek islands by boat

Areas along Turkey’s west coast (where the refugees are being transported to, pictured) are notoriously used by illegal people smugglers to traffic desperate refugees to nearby Greek islands by boat

A Greek government official told The Times : 'We have noticed some suspicious movements.' Pictured: Satellite images taken in Turkey appear to show asylum seekers being moved from inland facilities to coastal regions

A Greek government official told The Times : ‘We have noticed some suspicious movements.’ Pictured: Satellite images taken in Turkey appear to show asylum seekers being moved from inland facilities to coastal regions

‘As a result we have ordered a heightened alert for the next few days during the Easter holiday.’

Turkey was locked down this weekend after the country reported 56,900 confirmed cases of the bug with nearly 1,200 deaths. 

It is unclear whether the asylum seekers included in the group have coronavirus. 

More than 100,000 asylum seekers are trapped in Greece with nearly 40,000 in camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. Pictured: Migrants use a boat as a tent in Petra, Lesbos

More than 100,000 asylum seekers are trapped in Greece with nearly 40,000 in camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. Pictured: Migrants use a boat as a tent in Petra, Lesbos

Under a 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for financial aid. It has since protested that the EU has failed to honour the agreement. Pictured: A migrant sits by a tent in Lesbos

Under a 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for financial aid. It has since protested that the EU has failed to honour the agreement. Pictured: A migrant sits by a tent in Lesbos

More than 100,000 asylum seekers are trapped in Greece with nearly 40,000 in camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. 

Under a 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for financial aid. It has since protested that the EU has failed to honour the agreement.

But on February 28, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to keep borders open for Syrian refugees headed for Europe.

Since then, daily clashes between border police and asylum-seekers have broken out at the land border.

The Greek islands last year were the European Union’s busiest entry point for illegal migration, according to European border agency Frontex. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, just 40 migrants crossed the Agean sea last week.

Other routes are still being used as dozens of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean after attempting travel from Libya to Europe. 

President Erdogan today rejected the resignation of the country’s interior minister who took responsibility for a poorly timed announcement of a weekend lockdown that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets to stock up on supplies.

President Erdogan (pictured) today rejected the resignation of the country's interior minister who took responsibility for a poorly timed announcement of a weekend lockdown that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets to stock up on supplies

President Erdogan (pictured) today rejected the resignation of the country’s interior minister who took responsibility for a poorly timed announcement of a weekend lockdown that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets to stock up on supplies

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu (pictured), one of the most senior figures in the government, announced late Sunday that he was stepping down

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu (pictured), one of the most senior figures in the government, announced late Sunday that he was stepping down

The 48-hour lockdowns across 31 cities – which were aimed to contain the spread of the coronavirus – were announced just two hours before taking effect on Friday night. 

Thousands of people rushed into the streets to stock up on goods, many without wearing mandatory face masks.

Images of large, closely-bunched crowds sparked criticism of the government’s planning for to top the coronavirus.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, one of the most senior figures in the government, announced late Sunday that he was stepping down, saying: ‘responsibility for implementing the weekend curfew decision … belongs entirely to me.’

Erdogan’s office said however that the president is not accepting the resignation and Soylu ‘will continue in his duty.’

Soylu, 50, was appointed interior minister in August 2016. 

He joined Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in 2012, having switched from the center-right Democrat Party. 

Since then, he has risen to be viewed by some as a potential successor to Erdogan and a rival of the president’s son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak. 

On Friday, Turkey began sending planeloads of emergency equipment to Britain to help medics fighting coronavirus.

The first flight from Ankara took off today carrying personal protective equipment including surgical masks, N95 industrial masks and hazmat suits, with a second flight due to take off on Saturday, according to the defence ministry.

The items were sent in boxes displaying the words of 13th century Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi: ‘After hopelessness, there is so much hope and after darkness, there is the much brighter sun.’

In the past weeks, Turkey has similarly donated medical supplies to Italy, Spain – who like the UK are NATO allies – as well as five countries in the Balkans.  

The first flight from Ankara took off on Friday carrying personal protective equipment including surgical masks, N95 industrial masks and hazmat suits

The first flight from Ankara took off on Friday carrying personal protective equipment including surgical masks, N95 industrial masks and hazmat suits

The items were sent in boxes displaying the words of 13th century Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi: 'There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.'

The items were sent in boxes displaying the words of 13th century Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi: ‘There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.’

In Greece, two migrant camps were placed under lockdown after residents tested positive for coronavirus.

Officials said the camp in Malakasa, some 24 miles northeast of Athens, had been placed under ‘full sanitary isolation’ last week for 14 days, with no one allowed to enter or leave. 

A migration ministry source said the Malakasa facility currently shelters over 1,700 people. 

The first camp outbreak surfaced at a facility in Ritsona near Athens where 23 people – out of more than 2,500 – tested positive.

In Greek migrant camps, where tens of thousands of asylum-seekers live in dire conditions, regulations had already been announced in March to keep residents in all camps as far from the local population as possible.

Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi has warned that asylum seekers who attempt to break the lockdown will be prosecuted.

Greece is sheltering some 100,000 asylum seekers, mostly in camps and in hotel rooms and flats.

The worst congestion occurs in camps on five Aegean islands near Turkey where there are over 36,000 people for fewer than 6,100 places.

 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk