Refugee arrivals in Athens prompt new discussions
More than 4,200 refugees were due to arrive in Piraeus on two ships from Lesvos Tuesday, only temporarily easing the pressure on scant resources on the island but at the same time increasing concern in Athens about the fate of those who would disembark.
Authorities on Lesvos have registered some 17,500 refugees and migrants over the past week but the transfer to Athens of many of those people would only provide brief respite as hundreds more are arriving each day.
While many refugees head for Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), some end up stranded in Athens. Victoria Square in the city center has become a popular gathering point for refugees.
Athens Mayor Giorgis Kaminis is due to meet caretaker Immigration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas Thursday to discuss the issue. European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos is also due in Greece Thursday.
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos called his French counterpart Francois Hollande to discuss the issue. Pavlopoulos took the opportunity to explain to Hollande the size of the problem Greece is facing.
More than 350,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean this year and 2,600 have died while making the journey, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday.
The latest figures from IOM show that 234,778 migrants had landed in Greece and another 114,276 in Italy, with most of the other arrivals split between Spain (2,166) and the island of Malta (94).
The figure from 2015 already dwarfs that of 2014, when 219,000 made the crossing throughout the entire year.