SKALA SIKAMINEAS, Greece – The first dinghy landed at 17:45 on a rocky shore near a remote Greek fishing village. After the thirteenth arrived about 35 minutes later, 547 migrants had landed in broad daylight within a few meters of each other on the Greek island of Lesbos.
This August 29th flotilla echoed a pattern that had not been seen here since the beginning of 2016, when the European Union of Turkey, which is within sight of Lesbos, pledged more than $ 6 billion to its border controls to exacerbate and keep migrants out of Europe.
In recent years, only one or two refugee boats have made it to the coast of Greece every day, which greatly alleviates the migration crisis in Europe. But this rhythm changed in this August, the busiest month in more than three years, and sparked fears of a new wave of mass migration across the Aegean.
But the recent upswing comes when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey again threatens to allow a large number of migrants to make their way through Turkey to Greece if European politicians fail to provide further financial support to Turkey. or reject his plans to expand Turkish influence in northern Syria.
The increase in August shows that this may not be an idle threat. However, if he intends to create a new refugee crisis for Europe, Erdogan will have fewer tools available than in 2015, when Syrian refugees found it easier to enter Turkey.
Turkey has since completed a border wall and has done so imposed restrictions on Syrians traveling from Lebanon or Jordan. Any easing of these controls, the admission of more people, even if they use only Turkey as a bridge to Europe, would be politically risky for Mr Erdogan.
But 3.6 million Syrian refugees are already living in Turkey, the world's largest Syrian expatriate population, along with hundreds of thousands from other countries. If Turkey makes their life untenable or eases their efforts to keep them out of Europe, it could have a dramatic impact.
"Erdogan's recent statements on triggering a new wave of refugees are the result of his growing frustration with the large numbers already in Europe, Turkey," said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research group.
"It is unlikely that there is a fully thought-out master plan implementation," he added.
The fact that Turkish smugglers were able to gather so many people on August 29th and send them to Greece in such a rapid sequence raises questions about the complicity of the Turkish state.
Normally the Turkish Coast Guard According to Refugee Rescue, a small private lifeboat organization that helps those affected, this afternoon it failed to respond to repeated requests for intervention by its Greek counterparts and access to maritime communications.
The Turkish ships stuck to a pattern of morning raids throughout August, even as the smugglers repeatedly sent refugees to Greece in the afternoon.
"What we found strange was that this was a trend and they did not change their course of action to stop it," said Finn Sands-Robinson, head of Refugee Rescue land-based observation team.
A senior Turkish official insisting that his name was not used denied that the Turkish authorities had turned a blind eye to the smugglers.
More than 80 percent of the migrants who landed in Lesbos in August were from Afghanistan. Increasingly precarious conditions in Turkey and Iran, where at least one million Afghans live in exile, as well as in Afghanistan itself have led many Afghan refugees to Europe.
Gholam Reza Salahi, a 25-year-old Afghan worker who spent most of his life in Iran, said he had decided to go to Greece after the fourth deportation from Iran to Afghanistan.
"We would be smuggled back to Iran and then deported again," he said. "And that happened too often."
As a member of the Hazara ethnic group persecuted by the Taliban, he felt he could not stay in his parents' country. Turkey also did not feel like a plausible sanctuary: Ankara has so far deported 32,000 Afghans this year, far more than any other national group.
Europe felt the safest bet, said Reza Salahi, who reached Lesbos at the end of August.
Only 5 percent of migrants who arrived in Lesbos last month came from Syria, suggesting that few Syrians feel anxious enough to leave Turkey. The testimonies of the Syrian newcomers, however, give an indication of what could come next.
A group of North Syrian families huddled in a tent on a Greek hill refused to flee their neighborhoods for seven years despite regular air raids, destroying their homes and schools and killing many relatives and friends ,
But this summer, they finally decided to leave Jabal al-Zawiya, a rebel stronghold, due to a strong escalation of air strikes and airstrikes, likely recapturing the area by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
"The Assad army burns it when it takes its place," said Obeida al-Nassouh, a shopkeeper who said he paid $ 3,500 for his family through a secret tunnel into Turkey and on to Lesbos be smuggled. "They do not care if you're a civilian or a soldier, they just burn it."
] The enormous number of Syrians already in Turkey is experiencing considerable displeasure in Erdogan's political base, and he is anxious to reduce the refugee population.
Youssef al-Hassan, 44, who had recently come to Lesbos, had been content to stay there for seven years in Turkey, where his family lived in poverty, but at least felt safe from the forces of Mr. Assad.
But the deportations of Syrians this summer convinced Mr. al-Hassan that even Turkey was no longer safe.
We felt like they could kick us out in the next five minutes, "he said a few hours after landing in Greece. "The situation is such that many will come."
True or not, even a slight increase in arrivals intensifies the misery of refugees in Greece.
In 2015, new arrivals could quickly move to the Greek mainland. and then on to Germany. But today, migrants live in the Greek islands, mostly in overcrowded and degenerate camps that do not seem to be in place on the world's richest continent.
On Lesbos about 10,000 people were put into the camp Moria, for which was built only 3,100. Although the European Union has provided the Greek government with around $ 1.9 billion to subsidize refugee aid, Greece has refused to improve facilities to encourage more migrants.
Residents sometimes spend up to a year in tattered tents waiting in line for 12 hours a day to wait for food, which often goes out before everyone is served.
"We stand up for hours every day and they say," There's nothing left, "said Reza Salahi," and that's the case with about a quarter of us. "
Raw sewage sometimes gets into tents, While battles and sexual assault are common, overwhelmed physicians are struggling to treat an increasing number of patients.
Along with seemingly endless asylum procedures, this has all led to a mental health crisis that has helped workers as refugees According to Doctors Without Borders, the number of children with severe mental health problems has more than doubled to 73 since July.
An Afghan mother, Sohaila Hajizadeh, who fled to Greece after the Taliban attacked her family's home , said to have done so often declined by doctors when seeking a treatment for her adolescent son who had a severe psychic trauma From the wrist to the shoulder, the boy's arms are covered with self-inflicted knife wounds.
Unaccompanied children are particularly at risk. Officially, 747 refugee children live on Lesvos without their parents and are provided with safe shelters by the authorities. Due to the poor registration processes, however, more undocumented undocumented children are living in the camp.
A teenager, Mohammed al-Othman (16), lives in a cramped tent with twelve other people from his native province in Syria. He left Syria in August after his school was bombed. Since his mother only had enough money to smuggle a family member, Mohammed left alone.
Since his arrival in Greece, he has received no treatment for four splinter wounds sustained during an air raid.
"The treatment is very bad. "They said," They just asked me, how old are you, are you sick, and they left me out? "
He was wearing a shirt with the words," Adulthood. "
The words were crossed out .