An emergency meeting addressing the influx of refugees from war-torn Syria was held Thursday on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, which has seen more that 200 people taken into custody by the Coast Guard in the past few days alone.
Regional and municipal officials, as well as representatives of the Coast Guard and Police, met on the island of some 50,000 residents amid concerns that an escalation of the crisis in the Middle Eastern country could lead to a spike in the number of people fleeing violence and looking for a safe haven in Europe via Turkey.
The island’s authorities are currently dealing with processing 200 individuals arrested traveling by boat from Turkey who claim to be refugees from Syria, Kathimerini understands. Of these, 108 – among which an unaccompanied 12-year-old boy – are being held at a processing center in the village of Mersinidi, while the rest are being hosted by the Coast Guard at various facilities around the island.
Authorities warn that their resources are already stretched thin with the refugees currently under their care and will be unable to host any additional arrivals unless action is taken on a central government level.
Some of the measures introduced at Thursday’s meeting include renovating a disused building on the island belonging to the regional authority to host women and children, coordinating food donations from various groups and individuals around Chios and on other islands of the region, and launching a campaign urging citizens to donate medicines required for basic healthcare.
Food donations to the refugees and migrants being hosted on the island are currently being supervised by the Church, the KAPI Senior Citizens’ Center and volunteer groups.
Law enforcement authorities have also decided to suspend the deportation of Syrian refugees arrested on the island and held pending processing. The suspension will be in effect until the end of hostilities in Syria, they said.
Greece has for years struggled with managing the influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia as a first port of entry into the European Union, with European authorities and human rights groups accusing successive governments of failing to speed up the processing of refugees, who are by law entitled to protected status.