The Greek armed forces are beginning to run out of places to host refugees as new arrivals continue to reach the country, which prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to call NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday to express concern about the limited impact of naval patrols in the Aegean.
According to the figures provided by the National Defense General Staff (GEETHA),there are already 20,475 refugees in the temporary centers set up by the military around the country which are only supposed to hold 26,300 individuals. “We keep creating places but they keep filling up,” a military official who wished to remain anonymous told Kathimerini.
There are hopes that the numbers needing accommodation will start to fall once Greece starts returning refugees to Turkey. This process is due to start on April 4. However, spaces will also be needed for refugees at the Idomeni camp, as well as at the port of Piraeus and on the Greek islands. This means the armed forces, which have mostly been using abandoned army camps for the new centers, may have to create roughly double the current capacity.
That was one of the reasons that prompted Tsipras to call Stoltenberg. Athens is concerned that the patrols the alliance is carrying out in the Aegean have yet to stem smugglers’ activity. Sources said Stoltenberg told the prime minister that the immediate reaction force, known as SNMG2, has yet to begin normal operations, so its potential to stem the flow of migrants cannot be judged at this moment.