Following talks Thursday between European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos and Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou, a ministerial decision is to be drafted that would allow the immediate creation of an immigration service which will in turn unlock crucial European Union funding.
Government officials are said to have emphasized the need for immediate funding to deal with a rising tide of immigrants arriving on islands in the eastern Aegean from Turkey. Kathimerini understands that Athens lodged an appeal for emergency funding with Brussels two weeks ago and is awaiting approval. Sources told Kathimerini the request will be considered.
Meanwhile the government must set up the agency. A venue has been found, on Vouliagmenis Avenue, sources said, and the next step is for 35 employees to be recruited.
Of 470 million euros allocated to Greece in EU funding for migration, a tranche of around 30 million is likely to be disbursed initially.
A discussion is under way about where to accommodate thousands of immigrants arriving on the islands and then the mainland.
The situation in the eastern Aegean has reached crisis proportions, aid workers have warned. The government has chartered a ferry that is to dock at Kos in the coming days, offering temporary accommodation for hundreds of the migrants there. The process of identifying the migrants, and issuing them with legal documents, continued at an old soccer stadium on the island Thursday.
Around 4,500 immigrants have their papers but cannot leave the island due to a shortage of ferry tickets, according to local authority officials who have called for another ferry to be added to the route. Lesvos has a similar problem, and to a lesser extent Leros and Chios.
In a related development, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by telephone with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. The two men agreed on boosting cooperation to deal with a rising tide of refugees, Tsipras’s office said.