The government on Tuesday set out the basic axes of an emergency plan to deal with an increased influx of immigrants into the country.
The plan was announced by government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis following a meeting at the Maximos Mansion involving Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis, Alternate Citizens’ Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis, Alternate Immigration Policy Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou as well as coast guard officials.
The plan — which includes many measures introduced by previous governments with limited success — foresees the transfer of all new arrivals from the Aegean islands to reception centers on mainland Greece, where they will be identified as undocumented immigrants or refugees and will undergo health tests. Syrian refugees will receive “all necessary documents immediately,” he said. Authorities will also push for migration to be tackled at a European level. “The refugee problem is international, not Greek,” Sakellaridis said. He stressed that most migrants arriving in Greece are fleeing war and deserve protection, echoing comments earlier by Christodoulopoulou.
The latter fueled widespread scorn on Tuesday when she claimed that migrants thronging the streets of central Athens are not homeless but “sunning themselves.” Her comments came as municipal authorities in Athens, where most migrants end up, said they were unable to host additional arrivals. Government sources said they would reach out to Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis for a solution. Christodoulopoulou said around 100,000 immigrants are expected to enter Greece this year, adding that most were refugees meriting protection. Her stance did not appear to be shared by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, who said Greece cannot handle an endless influx of migrants.