Greece cruises into 2016 despite refugee crisis
Andy Cornish: February 2016
Cruise ships are still sailing into Greek ports despite some islands suffering heavily from the refugee crisis.
Latest figures show a 12% rise in curse she arrivals in ports across Greece and the Greek islands in 2015.
Greece is gradually turning into one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Mediterranean with the outlook for 2016 appearing positive despite the refugee problem on many islands.
The Hellenic Ports Association) reports ship arrivals in Greece up from 3,826 in 2014 to 4,279 in 2015.
And travel agents do not appear to have been put off by stories of some islands being 'swamped' by refugees.
Increased cruise ship arrivals were reported at Rhodes and Chios with no effect on Lesvos and just a small fall for Kos.
The number of cruise passengers to Greek island ports pushed past the half million mark making Greece the third most popular cruise travel destination in the Mediterranean.
Greek ports posting the highest number of cruise ship arrivals are Piraeus, Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Katakolon, Rhodes, Kefalonia, Patmos and the Crete ports of Heraklion and Chania.
The growing refugee crisis is having its effects felt internally however as Greece comes under fire for its poor management of the problem.
The Greek government has pledged to send in extra staff to help at screening centres on the worst affected islands and to build two relocation camps on the mainland,
Five special screening centres will be set up on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros to handle the ever-growing number of refugees entering Europe through Greece.
The government will also convert two former military camps on the mainland as into relocation centres to house 4,000 refugees each.
Island officials, however, fear that the latest moves could attract even more refugees to islands already struggling with high numbers.
Greece has been seen as the gateway into Europe for refugees fleeing from Syria through Turkey, with more than a million passing through in 2015 and rising numbers this year.