State and municipal employees on Tuesday started preparing a site in Elaionas, western Athens, for the planned relocation of some 500 Afghan and Syrian refugees who have been living in a makeshift camp in Pedion tou Areos park in central Athens.
The 4-hectare plot, which belongs to City Hall, had been set aside for the construction of a soccer stadium. A City Hall spokesperson conceded that the refugees cannot remain at Pedion tou Areos. “Local residents will react, and sanitation is inadequate,” the official said.
A town planning permit has been issued to allow an electricity pylon to be erected on the site and a team from the Athens Water Supply & Sewage Company (EYDAP) was at work there on Tuesday. State Minister Alekos Flambouraris, a close aide to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, is overseeing the project and is said to have pushed for swift action.
The aim, according to sources, is to set up prefabricated housing units to accommodate up to 500 people, the approximate number of refugees at Pedion tou Areos. Of the 500 people living in the park, around a third are children.
Most of those camping at the site are not there to stay. Families leave and new ones arrive every day, according to members of refugee support groups. A handful have applied for asylum but the majority move on as soon as they have arranged the next leg of their journey, a migrant helping out at the park said.