Construction of closed pre-departure migrant centers on Greece’s eastern Aegean islands will begin in March, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Monday, adding that the new facilities are expected to operate by summer.
Speaking on Skai TV, Mitarakis said that the new facilities, which are designed to replace existing hotspots like the notorious Moria camp on Lesvos island, will help step up returns and curb migrant flows.
The government appears determined to move ahead with the plan despite protests by local authorities and residents on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos who are fed up with the growing population of migrants and mistrust official pledges to gradually close down the existing, overcrowded camps.
Mitarakis said that Afghan asylum-seekers on the Greek islands currently outnumber those from Syria, adding that the new centers will be designed to accommodate a total of 20,000 asylum-seekers for a maximum of three months. He said the government aims to raise the number of weekly returns to 200.
The minister added that Turkey is currently cooperating on the issue of returns.
Meanwhile, it was announced on Monday that a presidential decree put forward by the government will allow requisition by the Migration Ministry of properties or land in cases where it is deemed necessary for the proper management of the migration crisis.