Around 500 migrants and asylum seekers staying in makeshift camps near the western port of Patra to organized facilities in other parts of the country, Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas told lawmakers in Athens on Friday.
Vitsas was responding to a question by Democratic Alliance MP Theodoros Papatheodorou concerning reports of a rise in crime in the port area that authorities attribute to two squats in abandoned factories housing dozens of migrants trying to sneak onto a ferryboat to Italy.
He said there are no plans to build an official migrant camp in the Achaia region – an idea that has already been opposed by local authorities and residents – but that the 500 or so migrants and asylum seekers staying at the two squats would be evacuated, possibly by the end of the month.
“We have heard reports of more than 100 altercations taking place between the migrants, but also between migrants and police officers in the zone just outside the port,” Papatheodorou said. “Such incidents have spiked recently, resulting in rising insecurity among resident, but also of xenophobia.”
“We know about the problem and we're not overlooking it,” Vitsas responded. “Of course recognizing a problem is not enough; you have to solve it, which is why we are working with the ministries of Citizens' Protection and Shipping.”
The two abandoned factories in question housed some 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers up until a couple of years ago and continue to fill up despite repeated evacuation operations.
Authorities arrested 760 people hiding in trucks or carrying forged travel documents at Patra in January and February, close to a third of the total of 2,627 arrests in 2017, according to official data quoted by Reuters earlier this week. In 2016, 1,040 people were arrested.
No one can say how many migrants make it across. Italian authorities returned 147 people to Greece last year, up from 112 in 2016 and 44 in January and February, according to Greek data cited by Reuters.