The majority of refugees stranded at the sprawling camp in Idomeni, northern Greece, do not have valid documents as most have expired, according to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas.
“The papers of 70 percent of the people at Idomeni [which they received when they were registered] have already expired,” he said, admitting that if police were to conduct checks on the more than 10,000 migrants at the camp many could be arrested as illegal migrants.
“What we are saying is that if they are moved to other camps around the country their documents will be automatically validated and renewed,” he said.
Government sources have told Kathimerini that the evacuation of migrants from Idomeni could begin in two weeks when the necessary accommodation centers are ready.
Under a deal struck with the European Union last October, Greece was given a deadline to create accommodation to house 50,000 migrants by the end of the year. But authorities have so far failed to do so.
“The truth is that we do not have the capability yet to transfer all these people to organized centers,” a police source said, adding that the evacuation plan can only move forward if the necessary infrastructure is in place.
However, the problem of expired papers is not confined to Idomeni but exists in camps outside Athens and Thessaloniki (the only places where migrants can submit asylum applications) as well.
Mouzalas said Monday that the EU-Turkey agreement in March to stem migrants flows depends to a large degree on the ability of authorities to process the thousands of asylum applications.
Sources told Kathimerini Monday that, in a bid to deal with this problem, special mobile units will move from camp to camp, beginning May 23, to process as many asylum applications as possible.