Greece cuts ferries to keep migrants from overrunning mainland

Greek authorities are throttling the transport of migrants from Aegean islands to the mainland in a bid to relieve the pressure of people piling up at the nearly closed border with Macedonia, an official said Friday.

"We must slow the influx because of the backlog on the mainland," Shipping and Islands Minister Thororis Dritsas told TV Skai.

Fewer ferry tickets will be sold to migrants, and fewer ferries will be sent to the islands where migrants arrive from Turkey. With that, they will "wait a little longer" before continuing their journey following the registration process, Dritsas said.

In order to avoid burdening the islands, the migrants will be sheltered on ferries docked in the ports of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, he added.

According to Greek authorities, 20,000 migrants are stranded in the country, while 4,000 are waiting at the border.

The stranding of migrants in Greece has come after Macedonia and other countries down the so-called Balkan route - Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and, finally, Austria - on Sunday stopped admitting Afghans.

People are still moving north through Greece, avoiding overcrowded refugee centres, in hope that they will squeeze through and resume the journey toward wealthy EU countries, most of all Germany.

But the pace of even Syrians and Iraqis being allowed in has slowed in recent months due to barriers imposed by Greece's neighbours, and resulting in further backlogs in Greece.

Afghans are the second-largest group, after Syrians, in the migration surge that brought more than 1 million people to Europe through Greece and the Balkan route over the previous 12 months. 

Countries north of Greece had been waving them through alongside Syrian and Iraqi refugees until the decision to stop them, which angered Greece and further strained relations within the European Union as it struggles to find an answer to the migration crisis.

Last update: Fri, 26/02/2016 - 11:10

More from Europe

EU's Tusk "deeply concerned" about fate of trade deal with Canada

One of the European Union's top officials said Thursday he was very worried about the possible failure of a major...

Japanese company to build robot factory in Slovenia

The Japanese Yaskawa Electric Corporation has decided to build its new industrial robots factory intended for the...

EU raises its voice against "unacceptable" Russian actions in Syria

The European Union on Thursday hardened its stance on Russia's "unacceptable" participation in Syrian regime-led...

Hitler salute is grounds for dismissal, German court rules

A German employment tribunal on Thursday ruled that a Nazi salute is grounds for dismissal after a driver for a...

Scotland floats draft bill on second independence vote before Brexit

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched a draft bill on a second referendum on independence from the United...