Greek authorities on Thursday hastily reopened a derelict sports hall from the Athens 2004 Olympics to house hundreds of migrants who were sleeping on the streets of the capital. City buses took more than 400 mainly-Afghan migrants from central Victoria Square to the Galatsi indoor hall. A few days earlier, a similar operation ferried migrants to the Hellenikon hockey centre in southern Athens.
"I want to reassure residents… Victoria Square will be cleared," Yiannis Mouzalas, the junior interior minister in charge of migration, told reporters. Hundreds of mainly Afghan migrants had set up tents on Victoria Square in recent days, and a late-night brawl broke out on Tuesday, prompting protests from the city of Athens and local residents. "We cannot work miracles but the situation will improve," Mouzalas promised.
Greece is the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly Syrian, who are seeking to travel west, triggering Europes worst migrant crisis since World War II. Since the beginning of the year, more than 310,000 people have arrived from neighbouring Turkey. As refugees, Syrians are allowed to swiftly move northwards to other EU states but other migrants have remained blocked in Greece.