NEWS

Athens seeks shelter for migrants while waiting for EU plan to kick in

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Pending the arrival of further funding from the European Union and the implementation of a plan for refugees currently in Greece to be relocated to other parts of the continent, Greek authorities are thinking of moving migrants camped in Athens squares to facilities at the city’s old airport in the southern suburb of Elliniko.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis is expected to meet with Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas in the next days to work out a plan regarding the hundreds of migrants gathering on the city’s streets, particularly in Victoria Square in downtown Athens.

Kaminis presided over a stormy meeting of the municipal council on Thursday, during which residents expressed anger about the lack of action to house migrants and tackle the traffickers that are exploiting them. The mayor apologized and pledged to find a solution.

“The City of Athens will listen to what the government has to say and will then decide what measures to take,” said Kaminis, who is expected to meet Mouzalas on Friday or Saturday.

Sources said Mouzalas and his aides are considering moving the migrants to Elliniko after a plan to build a camp from prefabricated structures at an old munitions factory in Lavrio, southeast of Athens, foundered on resistance from local authorities.

As thousands of migrants and refugees continue to flood into Greece via its sea border with Turkey, the decisions taken by European Union leaders at an emergency summit in Brussels on migration are expected to provide some relief.

According to a European Commission official, reception centers are to open in so-called “hot spots” in Greece, as well as Italy, in the coming weeks. The purpose of the centers is to separate genuine refugees meriting asylum from economic migrants.

Although the initial plan was for Greece, Italy and Hungary to share the burden of accommodating the refugees, Hungarian authorities refused to participate in the program, deeming that it would merely encourage more people to try to slip into the EU and instead emphasized the need for stricter border controls.

Greek authorities are open to additional teams from Frontex, the bloc’s border monitoring agency, being sent to the Greek-Turkish land border but object to the establishment of a permanent force there.

A task force is to be set up at the port of Piraeus, where Frontex has a branch office, and is to coordinate with staff at the hot-spot centers, which are to be located on islands in the eastern Aegean which have borne the brunt of the migrant influx.

Leaders attending Wednesday’s summit agreed to set aside 1.14 billion euros for countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where millions of displaced Syrians are living in camps.