Authorities are concerned that thousands of refugees and migrants could end up trapped in Greece as a number of European countries have essentially closed their borders to keep a flood of desperate people at bay.
Greek officials indicate that the situation is under control for now but there are fears that a failure to reach a solution at the European level could lead to chaotic scenes in Greece.
Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas confirmed on Wednesday that two new reception centers are being prepared – one for Attica and one near Thessaloniki. The aim is for both facilities to be operational in less than three weeks.
One of the facilities, which is to be based at a former munitions plant in Lavrio, eastern Attica, will hold up to 700 people. The plan is for the migrants and refugees to stay there for two or three days until their registration is complete.
Mouzalas indicated that a crisis on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos has eased and the situation in central Athens is also being managed. Hundreds of refugees who have been camping in tents in central squares have been relocated to a facility in the district of Elaionas.
But authorities concede that the measures being taken are a stopgap solution as thousands of migrants and refugees continue to enter the country. “We are putting a plan into action, but we are not magicians,” Mouzalas said. “If the influx increases, we will have a problem again.”
As European Union justice and interior ministers prepare to meet in Brussels on Tuesday for crisis talks on the migration crisis, Mouzalas expressed optimism that a solution will be found, noting that the alternative for Europe is “like choosing suicide.”