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Migrant centers slated for islands

Authorities have decided to set up four new reception centers for immigrants on islands of the Aegean to tackle a rising influx of would-be migrants into Greece by sea that has been prompted by more effective policing along the Turkish land border.

The decision to set up the centers -- which, Kathimerini understands, will be located on Chios, Lesvos, Samos and Rhodes -- was taken during a meeting on Monday between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Defense Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and Merchant Marine Minister Costas Mousouroulis. The aim is to prevent the incoming migrants from traveling to the mainland until they are deported.

Government officials also reportedly decided to intensify inspections by coast guard vessels and members of the European Union border monitoring agency, Frontex, along the sea borders.

Dendias also presented to Samaras a plan code-named Ioni aimed at dealing with an anticipated influx of refugees from Syria. According to sources, the plan outlines three scenarios, foreseeing the refugees’ arrival in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. In either of the latter two cases, Greek authorities would help the neighboring countries. In the event that the migrants arrive in Greece, the plan is to temporarily detain them on Crete. Turkey is believed to be accommodating 83,000 Syrian refugees though authorities have indicated they cannot host more than 130,000. Reports suggest that around 250,000 Syrians have fled their homeland.

“There is a big issue in Syria,” Dendias said. “It is turning into an outflow of refugees. They haven’t arrived in large numbers in Greece. But the country must be ready,” he added.

Migrants are also continuing their efforts to leave Greece. Coast guard officers in the western port of Patra have detained around 10 suspected people smugglers in the past two weeks, Kathimerini understands.

According to sources, the 10 suspects include Albanians and Romanians but also nationals from Syria and Afghanistan -- two of the main countries of origin of would-be migrants traveling to Greece. One of the suspects is being sought by police in Italy, according to the same sources who said authorities seized forged travel documents with which 55 would-be migrants had planned to travel to Italy.

ekathimerini.com , Monday September 17, 2012 (22:28)  
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