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14,000 migrants return home from Greece since 2017

Syrian and Iraqi immigrants getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos | wikipedia

Around 14,000 migrants returned to their homelands from Greece since the beginning of 2017, leaving behind the hopes they once had of legally passing to the wealthier parts of Europe where they wished to seek asylum.

In September alone 1,598 people returned with assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), reported Greek police in figures released on Thursday. The returnees travel back under protection and receive between 500 euros and 1,500 euros (590-1,760 dollars) in IOM assistance.

The migrants heading back to their home countries were mostly Albanians, Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Georgians and citizens of northern African countries.

Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants were stranded in Greece after Balkan countries closed their borders to them in April 2016. Before that, more than one million people had reached Western Europe from Turkey, across Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary or Croatia and Slovenia.

Sources noted that in 2016, migrants who were stranded in Greece have been crossing on foot into Macedonia as parts of the border are not fenced off.

Greece has been experiencing a dramatic rise in the number of refugees and migrants entering the country, aggravating already deplorable living conditions on island camps. Authorities estimated arrivals during 2016 were at their highest level since March 2016, with over 200 men, women and children being registered every day.

Refugees and migrants have been arriving in Greece not only on rickety boats from Turkey but by foot across the frontier between the two countries. Greece was at the center of the 2015 migrant crisis, when close to a million men, women and children entered the country as part of onward journeys that often took them to Germany. Most were arriving from war-torn Syria.