ATHENS - Greek forces are on heightened alert as reports have surfaced that Turkey is preparing to push through a fresh wave of migrants to Europe. Officials in Athens say, they fear that refugees infected with the coronavirus may be among the new wave of asylum seekers.
Greek government officials contacted by VOA say the heightened alert follows intelligence reports showing Turkish authorities moving refugee groups from remote inland areas to Turkey’s western shores, where smugglers could secretly ferry then to Greek islands less than a few kilometers away.
They say Greece’s coastguard, Air Force and Navy are increasing patrols along the Aegean waterway that divides Greece and Turkey… anticipating what they call an organized attempt by Ankara to push through thousands of asylum seekers to Europe.
Whether that push will include migrants infected by the coronavirus remains unclear, officials told VOA.
But on Sunday, leading Greek media reported that Turkey was in fact considering such a plan... hoping to exert fresh pressure on Europe to extract added financial aid for hosting nearly 4 million Syrian refugees and sparing the continent a fresh migration crisis.
Relations between Athens and Ankara have been strained since Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced earlier this year that he would no longer block migrants and refugees from seeking entry to Europe.
He rescinded that order late last month, moving tens of thousands of migrants who had amassed along the Greek-Turkish land border to secluded camps to cslow the spread of the coronavirus in his country.
Turkey, though, has publicly vowed to open its border anew to migrants once it manages to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
That's a threat officials in Athens are not underestimating.