Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Tuesday inaugurated a new reception center for migrants in Thiva, north of Athens, which is expected to become home to hundreds of people currently living at the capital’s old airport in the southern suburb of Elliniko.
On a visit to the center with Laura Thompson of the International Organization (IOM), Mouzalas hailed the center as offering “dignified” conditions to migrants.
Some 2 million euros in European Union funding went into renovating the former spinning mill. The center now has 65 prefabricated buildings that can host eight people each, with more structures to go up soon. Ultimately, it will be able to host 700 people.
Mouzalas said migrants will be moved to the site within the next month and that the majority will be families from the Elliniko camp. Most of the people currently at Elliniko are Afghans and have lodged applications for asylum.
The new camp has common bathrooms and classrooms and Doctors of the World is to set up a surgery.
During his visit to the Thiva site, Mouzalas was asked by reporters whether he feared a new influx of migrants from Turkey, which has recently suggested that it may renege on a pact with the European Union to crack down on human smuggling in the Aegean. His reply was diplomatic but pointed to unease. “There is always concern but we want the EU-Turkey agreement to be honored and we are working for that,” he said.
On the Aegean islands, where hundreds of migrants have been living in substandard conditions for months, rates of depression and suicide attempts have increased, according to aid workers. In January alone, there were 12 suicide attempts and six incidents of migrants inflicting self harm on Samos, according to Doctors Without Borders. The number of migrants in reception centers on Lesvos with post-traumatic stress syndrome has tripled in comparison with a year ago.