The burnt bodies of 18 people believed to have been migrants who had crossed the Turkish border into an area of northeastern Greece where wildfires have raged for days were found on Tuesday, The Associated Press (AP) reported, citing Greek firefighters.
The bodies were found near the national park of Dadia, a region bordering Turkey that is a frequent entry point for refugees, fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopios said in a televised address.
Dimitris Kairidis, Greece’s migration minister, denounced the “murderous activity of criminal traffickers” which is “what endangers the lives of many migrants both on land and at sea every day.”
While migration numbers into Greece from Turkey have dropped in recent years as a result of strict border controls and deals with Ankara, Greece is a major entry point to the EU for Asians and Africans fleeing conflict or poverty, who mostly leave Turkey in unseaworthy boats. Stronger patrols by Greek authorities, assisted by the EU border agency, have restricted flows in recent years after nearly a million people made the journey in 2015.
Greece, however, remains a front-line country for migration to Europe.
On Monday two people died and two firefighters were injured in separate fires in northern and central Greece, The AP said.
Over the last two days, the EU has deployed seven airplanes, one helicopter, 114 firefighters and 19 vehicles to assist Greek firefighters, volunteers and police in fighting the massive wildfires.
“The EU maintains its commitment to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Greece in the face of these devastating wildfires,” Janez Lenarčič, commissioner for crisis management, said.