Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads to a crucial European Union summit on Friday in Bratislava hoping for progress with regard to the refugee crisis as the numbers of migrants stranded in Greece continue to climb, putting additional pressure on already overcrowded reception centers and camps across the country.
Friday’s summit of the EU’s 27 leaders – the first since Britain voted to leave – will discuss the bloc’s future course and orientation in the aftermath of Brexit, as well as the refugee crisis, which is weighing heavily on the Greek government and the country as the lack of progress on the issue has also triggered a rise in tensions inside migrants camps, but also among locals – especially on the islands of the eastern Aegean, which have borne the brunt of the crisis.
On Chios on Thursday, scuffles broke out during a protest by around 800 locals who approached two camps demanding the departure of some 3,500 migrants and refugees being held there.
According to reports, the protest was also attended by individuals with links to the neofascist Golden Dawn party.
Despite a deal between the EU and Turkey in March to limit the influx of migrants, their numbers in Greece have risen to more than 60,000 as Eastern European and Balkan countries closed their borders earlier in the year.
Raising the alarm, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos warned on Thursday at the Athens Democracy Forum that if the deal between Brussels and Ankara unravels, then 100,000 refugees and migrants will end up on the Greek islands within a week. However, he insisted that Turkey remains committed to the deal.
According to the latest official data, there are more than 13,000 migrants distributed across five eastern Aegean islands, whose facilities only have the capacity to hold 8,000.
Tsipras discussed the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call on Thursday ahead of Friday’s summit. Both reportedly agreed on the need to boost the European Asylum Office in Greece in order to expedite asylum claims, while they were also on the same page concerning the need for the resettlement of refugees currently in Greece to other EU states, which was stipulated in the Brussels-Ankara deal.