Although large numbers of refugees have been transferred to reception facilities on the mainland from overcrowded camps in the Aegean in recent days, hundreds more remain on the islands with a new cold snap expected later this week.
According to sources, there has been an increase in cases of flu at overflowing island camps where many migrants are forced to sleep in tents outdoors. Shortages in medicines at the island facilities compound the problem.
Plans are afoot to overhaul the main migrant reception center at Moria on Lesvos, which was seriously damaged by fire and rioting last year, and where overcrowding is acute.
Due to the lack of space, police precincts are being used to accommodate migrants, but a spokesman for the local police union said this was not a solution. “The situation in the cells has been suffocating for months now,” Dimitris Alexiou told Kathimerini.
Meanwhile, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, the successor to Frontex, is pushing ahead for the creation of a rapid response force to deal with crises at European Union border areas like the eastern Aegean and southern Italy.
The new body will consist of 1,500 personnel drawn from European Union member-states.
Greece will take part with 50 people from the Greek Police (ELAS) and port authorities.
ELAS, which has already asked interested parties to submit applications by January 8 at the latest, said that each member-state is obliged to set up permanent rapid response teams which will be placed at the service of the Agency in emergency situations within a period of five days.
The selection process of candidates will adhere to strict criteria, including a knowledge of English and excellent evaluations from their superiors over the last three years.