A cruise liner and more than 250 policemen will be sent to Greece’s eastern Aegean islands to help authorities deal with the growing influx of refugees and migrants, the government decided Wednesday.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by State Minister Alekos Flambouraris. Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou took part in the talks as well and is due to meet today in Athens with EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. Sources said Athens will explore whether there are ways to receive emergency funding from Brussels to help process and care for the hundreds of migrants and refugees who are arriving each day.
A ship that can carry more than 2,000 people is due to be sent to Kos, which is experiencing the worst overcrowding, by Saturday, sources said. Authorities on the island are trying to process the new arrivals, with some 1,000 being given papers Wednesday after a 12-member team from the Aliens Bureau in Athens was sent there to help local police.
At least 260 more police officers are due to be sent to Kos and other eastern Aegean islands in the coming days to provide assistance to local officers.
The nongovernmental organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) heavily criticized Greece Wednesday for failing to provide adequate care to refugees arriving on Kos.
“What was previously a situation of state inaction is now one of state abuse, with police using increasing heavy-handed force against these vulnerable people,” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF director of operations.
“A site big enough to welcome all with minimum standards has yet to be designated,” he added. “One is left to wonder what more the Greek authorities need to rise up to the occasion, take their responsibilities and receive these people humanely and with dignity.”
A municipal stadium is currently being used as a processing center but authorities drew condemnation from aid workers for keeping up to 2,500 people locked inside without adequate shade and water.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this in Greece – people locked in a stadium and controlled by riot police. We’re talking about mothers with children and elderly people. They’ve been locked in there after many hours in the sun,” said Julia Kourafa, a spokeswoman for MSF at the stadium.