Greece and Turkey: The Migrant Situation
Useful advice from The RCC Pilotage Foundation to cruisers sailing in the waters between Greece and Turkey.
Published 8 years ago, updated 4 years ago
See also comment from a cruiser in Lesvos (Mytilini) about the situation there at bottom of page.
There are some 2.5 million refugees from Syria in Turkey, and many of these have traveled to the Aegean coast hoping to be able to cross to Greece and then to Europe. The Area Commander of the Turkish Coastguard says: ‘The view of the Coastguard is quite clear. Attempts to exit Turkey and enter Greece without going through the proper channels is an illegal activity. If any vessel, whether commercial or private, takes on board any such person then that vessel is itself acting illegally, by extension. Great care is therefore needed by any vessel which is in the vicinity of vessels which may have migrants aboard. There is nightly traffic of migrants trying to get to Greece from Turkey.’
There is a greatly increased level of activity by the Turkish coastguard and the Turkish navy in the channels between Turkey and the Greek Islands. Small craft are liable to be stopped and inspected; foreign-registered recreational yachts tend to be recognized as such and left alone, may be subject to a radio check.
The easiest way to report an incident may be to phone a marina and pass the buck to them. Mobile phone coverage is excellent throughout Turkey, and marinas normally answer and have English speakers readily available. Alternatively, it is suggested that the quickest way may be to phone 158, which would be connected directly to the Coastguard.
Transfers between Greece and Turkey.
All these problems mean that it is no longer possible to slip between Greece and Turkey without formally clearing out and in – which can be expensive and time-consuming. It is best to stay on one side or the other until you have to cross over.
In Turkey, where regulations are generally more strictly applied than in Greece, there continues to be an expectation that yacht owners clearing in or out should use a registered agent, with concomitant additional costs. It is suggested that Didim is avoided as a port of entry – there are no officials on site, it is slow and expensive.
Further update from MY LeeZe in Mytilini, Greece – 11 September, 2015:
In the last 48 hours, there has been a major change to the crisis. Nearly ALL of the refugees that were here are now gone. The tent cities in the parks and open areas are gone.
People searching for water and a place to charge their cell phones are gone. The police came yesterday and forced those still residing in the parks and open areas to take their tents down and move to the port.
The number of people waiting at the port is low, really low as of last night when I dropped a guest off. The locals have reclaimed their city, were walking about last night and were smiling.
From talking with them, and a policeman, it seems the government has changed their process. Refugees are still coming. But when they get here, they are recorded and for 50 €, they are provided a trip to the Port of Athens.
Where they are registered. Neither knew what was done with the refugees that did not have the money to by a ticket. This morning, when I got up, the city was clean and tent free. The mounds of trash are gone.
Last night, the refugees that came in from the north had their “care” package in hand, their stipend, and instructions to report to the port for processing and passage to Athens (per the policeman) today.
So, unless there is a huge influx of refugees, the problem on this island is now very much under control.
Update just in from MY LeeZe – currently berthed in Mytilini on Lesvos, Eastern Sporades, Greece:
The refugee crisis here is EXPLODING!
The news is reporting that there are 15000 on the island, charter cruise ships can take off about 2000 per ship per run, 3-4000 arriving daily, no end in sight.
They sleep anywhere they can, mostly in parks, sidewalks, beaches, and the port. They are constantly searching for water, a place to charge their cell phones, and a place to sleep.
They are nearly to a fault polite, respectful, and happy that they made it this far, but frustrated with the pace it is taking to get off the island and get to Athens.
When they get off the bus (if they landed in the north) or get off the patrol boat that picked them up, their first action is generally to take a selfie. That is how happy they are to get here.
Nearly all we have spoken with want to get to Germany. They have money so they are not begging.
For cruisers planning on coming here, water and electrical services along the city wall are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get. The marina to the south of the harbor is available.
The amount of litter in the harbor is astounding.
The government here is trying but it is simply overwhelmed.
So, for boats that need to check into Greece, for now I suggest Chios before here.
One can check in here but plan on not staying long and going somewhere else (Molivous maybe?).
We are here awaiting guests, and plan to move on this Sunday.
This is a human disaster unfolding before our eyes of immense proportions.
Lee and Zehra Licata