As migrants continue to arrive in Greece from Turkey, with returns having stopped following the attempted coup in the neighboring country last month, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to take a two-day break from his short holiday for talks in Athens on Wednesday and Thursday which are expected to focus primarily on the refugee crisis.
Tsipras is to meet with Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas as Greek authorities closely monitor a slight increase in arrivals from neighboring Turkey.
The uptick in arrivals is very small and not a major cause for concern as the influx this time last year was much bigger.
However, as returns to Turkey have effectively stopped amid ongoing upheaval in the country following last month’s attempted coup, the pressure on reception centers in Greece is growing.
Tensions have prompted protests and scuffles in recent weeks as many migrants have been waiting for months for their asylum applications to be processed or for deportation.
Two protests were reported on Tuesday, one on Chios and one on Lesvos, with the chief gripe being delays in the examination of migrants’ asylum applications.
Unease in the ranks of the government is being intensified by the statements of Turkish officials, effectively threatening to break a pact struck between Ankara and the European Union in March to curb migrant smuggling in the Aegean.
On Tuesday, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said Europe would endanger its own security by refusing visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, as Ankara would then annul its migrant pact with the EU.
In his comments to Turkey’s Haberturk TV, Celik insisted that Ankara was not “not blackmailing anyone” and had made its position clear on the visa issue.
Alternate Defense Minister Dimitris Vitsas on Tuesday underlined the government’s concerns at the refugee crisis “being used as a political or petty political argument for other objectives.”
As for the increased migrant influx, Vitsas said Athens would tap the EU for additional funding and personnel if the arrivals increase any further. He said authorities were planning to overhaul reception centers on mainland Greece and increase the number of apartments available to house migrants.
Vitsas said refugees on the islands who have completed the first stage of their asylum application can be moved to facilities on the mainland.