Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Wednesday conceded that the migration problem is becoming more difficult to manage as the number of people arriving on the shores of Greek islands from Turkey since August is up 200 percent compared to the same period last year.
Describing the spike as a “special phase” in the migration problem, Mouzalas added that while the average arrival rate in July was 87 people per day, it shot up to 156 per day in August, while in the months of September and October it rose even further, to 214 per day.
With around 4,000 people arriving on the islands in October alone, Mouzalas described the situation at the congested camps on Lesvos as “very bad” and on Chios as “bad.”
Nonetheless, he said that Greece continues to view the joint declaration of the European Union and Turkey in March to stem the flow of migrants into Europe as valid.
Greece, he said, has intensified diplomatic efforts to ensure the implementation of the agreement which he described as “decisive for the future of Greece.”
Referring to the scant number of returns of migrants to Turkey from Greece, Mouzalas said, “We would like to see more returns because that will restore the order of things.”
He attributed the low number of returns to Turkey – 1,360 people since the deal was activated – to the way asylum applications are examined in Greece.
“We are the only country that has four levels of examination of asylum applications,” he said, while admitting that some of the migrants whose applications have been rejected find illegal means to leave the islands and travel to the mainland.
He also said the government plans to create new accommodation centers on the islands to house migrants as winter sets in and temperatures drop, even without the agreement of local authorities, if flows continue at the same rates.
Meanwhile, a group of refugees who have been stranded in Greece gathered outside Parliament Wednesday to protest against delays in reuniting them with relatives in Germany.
Mouzalas told reporters that Greece had received assurances from Germany that refugees whose applications have been accepted will eventually travel to Germany even if there are delays.