Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Tuesday heralded the creation of a central body to oversee and improve Greece’s response to the migration and refugee crisis and ensure the country safeguards its position in the Schengen passport-free area, noting that the new body will be led by a senior military official.
Greece’s military is to have the oversight of the “Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration” until the Migration Ministry and the Hellenic Police gain the necessary know-how and experience to tackle the problem independently, Kammenos indicated at Tuesday’s press conference.
The center, which is to be operational by February 15, is to be based at the Defense Ministry headquarters and coordinate with the Hellenic Police, Coast Guard, Migration Ministry and nongovernmental organizations working with migrants and refugees.
The aim is to increase the efficiency of transferring migrants from the islands to the mainland, to improve the provision of food as well as medical and healthcare to migrants, and to monitor the creation of five screening centers, or hot spots, for migrants on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros.
Referring to the growing pressure on the islands of the eastern Aegean that receive thousands of migrants daily from neighboring Turkey, Kammenos explained that the new plan aims to spread the burden.
The five hot spots to be set up on the islands are to accommodate migrants for only 24 hours while two relocation centers, on the outskirts of Athens and Thessaloniki, will host new arrivals for up to 72 hours.
The screening and relocation centers are to operate in a similar way to the central body, under a local military official who is to coordinate with police and coast guard officers.
As the European Union increases the pressure on Greece to manage its borders more effectively, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is due in Athens on Thursday and Friday for talks expected to focus on the migration crisis.