Thousands of migrants and refugees continued to reach the shores of Greece’s eastern Aegean islands on their way to Western Europe, as France and Germany called for a unified response to the mounting crisis.
According to police estimates, between 8,500 and 9,000 refugees on the island of Lesvos were Monday awaiting transfer to the Greek mainland. A ferry charted by the Greek government – the Eleftherios Venizelos – was expected to pick up another 2,500 Syrians from the island at 2.30 this morning and bring them to Athens.
“The foreigners that leave the island every day are replaced by the same number of people arriving from the Turkish coast,” Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos told Kathimerini.
Authorities said a second ferry would be added to the route in the coming days.
The Hellenic Coast Guard on Monday recovered the bodies of two people who drowned after the vessel they were traveling in capsized due to strong winds off the island’s coast. Another person was still missing late Monday while eight were rescued.
Meanwhile, more than 3,000 migrants and refugees remained stranded on Kos island. Also on Monday on Kos, a blaze broke out at the derelict Captain Elias hotel which is used as temporary accommodation by refugees. It was the second time the building had caught fire, prompting Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis to threaten legal action against property owners Piraeus Bank.
Warning of “an exceptional situation,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande Monday called for a unified asylum system across Europe. “Rather than wait, we should organize and reinforce our policies, and that is what France and Germany are proposing,” Hollande said.
Frontex, the EU’s border agency, said last week that a record 107,000 migrants were at the bloc’s borders last month, with more than 20,000 arriving in Greece last week alone.
Tension appeared to ease Monday on the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as Skopje lifted a blockade of its border. Hundreds more people entered FYROM from Greece on Monday, after nearly 10,000 people crossed into Serbia over the weekend