Greek authorities stepped up their search for places to host refugees and migrants Monday as the situation at the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) threatens to become unmanageable.
FYROM police fired tear gas at migrants as they attempted to tear down the fence that has been erected by the neighboring country to place tighter restrictions on the number of people crossing its border with Greece.
NGO Doctors Without Borders said that it treated numerous children, including one as young as six weeks, after the tear gassing.
Authorities estimated last night that there were some 7,500 people at the border village of Idomeni. The government believes this figure could rise to as high as 20,000 in the coming days, putting further strain on limited resources.
The government estimates there were up to 30,000 migrants trapped in Greece Monday but envisages this increasing to between 50,000 and 70,000 fairly soon unless the number of people arriving is reduced or more refugees are allowed to leave Greece.
Some 5,000 migrants were staying last night at the terminal at Piraeus port, 3,250 at the former Athens airport site in Elliniko, 1,350 at the transit center in Schisto and 750 at the camp in Elaionas.
Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas met with representatives of the coast guard, military, local government and church Monday to discuss ways in which more places can be found to house the refugees.
Two more temporary reception centers were made available Monday in Nea Kavala and Kilkis, northern Greece. This allowed authorities to transfer thousands of migrants that had been held back in Trikala, Grevena and other areas on the mainland in previous days.
A conference center in Kavala in the northeast is also being used to house 720 people. A passenger ferry carrying more migrants from Lesvos is expected to dock at Kavala port Tuesday.
Plans for NATO patrols to tackle human traffickers, thereby reducing the number of people crossing the Aegean, have yet to materialize. On Monday, Turkey objected to the lead German ship in the alliance’s rapid reaction force conducting a test run that would take it through Turkish waters. Greece had earlier agreed to the exercise.