The relocation of migrants from overcrowded camps on the eastern Aegean islands to the mainland will be carried out in phases with the transfer of a small number of people initially, sources at the Migration Policy Ministry have said in response to pressure – from European authorities and residents of the islands – for their immediate transfer.
The sources said work to build new refugee centers is still under way and that migrants can only be transferred when their asylum applications have been processed.
The return of small groups of migrants to Turkey, however, is continuing. On Wednesday, 55 people were returned to Turkey: 20 Algerians, 20 Pakistanis, four Afghans, five Moroccans, three Bangladeshis, one Iranian, one Palestinian and one Sri Lankan. Of the 55 migrants sent back, 37 had had their asylum applications rejected a second time, after appealing the first rejection. The others had not appealed.
Meanwhile new migrants continue to arrive, both via the Aegean and the Greek-Turkish land border. On Wednesday morning, Greek authorities said 90 migrants had arrived on islands of the eastern Aegean in the previous 24 hours, with another 214 entering Greece via the land border with Turkey.
In a related development, Education Minister Nikos Filis said the first group of 1,500 refugee children will start school from Monday, attending separate lessons in the afternoons. More than 22,000 young refugees from facilities across the country are to attend Greek schools in line with a government initiative that aims to eventually integrate the refugee children with their Greek counterparts.