Greek police officers walk along the railway tracks through a makeshift camp at Idomeni border station on the Greek side of the border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), photographed from FYROM’s side of the border line, early Thursday.
The police presence on Greece’s Aegean islands and at Idomeni on its northern border is to be strengthened after clashes between refugees and migrants, as well as authorities, and fears that tensions will rise as the return of people to Turkey gets under way next week.
Police chiefs held an emergency meeting Thursday after clashes at the refugee center at the port of Piraeus involving dozens of refugees and migrants and incidents at island hot spots. A decision was taken to send 150 officers to Lesvos, Samos and Chios. Another 105 policemen will be assigned to the Kilkis police directorate, which is responsible for maintaining law and order at the Idomeni camp.
An official at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry told Kathimerini that authorities would draw up a new operations plan in the next few days that would make even more officers available for policing hot spots on the Aegean islands.
Kathimerini understands that Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas has asked the Finance Ministry to release the funds necessary to hire an extra 287 coast guard officers to look after security at the Piraeus camp, which currently houses almost 6,000 people, and elsewhere.
Authorities were forced to act after a large-scale clash in Piraeus on Wednesday night. It is not clear what caused the disturbances, which led to fights between Syrians and Afghans and police being attacked. A number of people were injured. More than 500 people were moved from the center Thursday in a bid to ease tension.
There was also an incident at a hot spot on Chios, where migrants forced their way out of the camp. They returned after holding a protest.
The government submitted draft legislation to Parliament Thursday that should pave the way for the implementation of the agreement to return migrants and refugees to Turkey, from where the EU will resettle asylum seekers.
The provisions of the complex bill foresee refugees’ appeals against their return to Turkey being heard within two weeks. European Commission sources suggested that 500 people may be returned on Monday but officials at Greece’s Migration Policy Ministry said this is too ambitious a target.