A day after a crisis summit on the refugee problem, where Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to increase Greece’s reception capacity for migrants to 50,000 by the end of the year, the European Commission approved the release of emergency aid to Athens.
Confirming the approval of 5.9 million euros to help Greece cope with the large numbers of migrants and refugees arriving in the country daily from Turkey, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Monday that the aid was aimed at enabling authorities to “cover the transportation costs for a significant number of these persons from the eastern Aegean islands to reception centers in mainland Greece once they have been properly registered, identified and fingerprinted.”
A statement issued by the EC indicated that the sum was aimed at paying for the transport of 60,000 people. It remained unclear, however, where those people would stay as Greek authorities are still seeking venues.
Sources in Brussels indicated that Tsipras came under huge pressure at the Sunday summit to set up a large facility for migrants in Athens. In comments after the meeting, Tsipras said the creation of such a facility, “the size of a small city,” was among a series of “unacceptable demands” that he rejected.
On Monday, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili also presented the outcome of the summit as a minor victory for Greece. “What was asked of us, to place 20,000 people in a giant camp, was rejected,” she said, adding that “there will be no concentration camps in our country.” She added that authorities were preparing a housing program to help up to 20,000 migrants, indicating that this too would require European funding.
As authorities discussed how to handle migration flows, thousands of desperate people continued their journeys. Another migrant was found drowned off Lesvos on Monday, and another 12 remained unaccounted for, following another tragedy on Sunday when the bodies of a woman and two children were recovered. Meanwhile, many migrants waiting on the islands to be registered are said to be sleeping in the rain due to space restrictions at reception centers.
Hundreds more migrants who arrived in Piraeus on Monday made their way to the capital’s squares. Around 1,500 people were camped out in Victoria Square alone on Monday night.