Ferry carrying refugees and migrants docks at Piraeus
A ferry carrying about 2,500 migrants who had arrived clandestinely on Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast docked Thursday in Greece's main port of Piraeus near Athens.
Greece has been overwhelmed this year by record numbers of migrants arriving on its eastern Aegean islands, with more than 160,000 arriving since January.
The ferry was chartered by the government and served as a registration center on the eastern Aegean island of Kos this week. It left Kos on Wednesday with 1,300 migrants and picked up hundreds more from the islands of Leros, Kalymnos and Lesbos.
The vast majority of migrants do not want to stay in the financially troubled country, where unemployment stands at more than 26 percent. They head north through the Balkans toward more prosperous European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, where asylum conditions are better.
Germany says it could face as many as 800,000 migrants this year – four times the number from last year. Germany now handles 43 percent of all asylum applications in the 28-nation European Union and its top officials say Europe has to come up with a better way to share the burden.
Those arriving Thursday in Piraeus were boarding buses heading to the city's main train station. Many have ended up camping in parks and squares in Athens, although most catch trains to northern Greece and from there make their way to the border with Macedonia to continue their journey north.
A new migrant reception center has been opened in Athens to house up to about 700 migrants. So far about 300 have chosen to stay there.
The Greek government has appeared unprepared for the massive influx, with island authorities complaining they have been left understaffed to deal with hundreds of new migrants each day.