Seven army camps in Thessaloniki that are not currently in use have been chosen to temporarily house refugees and migrants as Greek authorities seek ways of easing the overcrowding at the Idomeni border crossing with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The camps are currently going through a quick renovation process that is being carried out by local authorities and the army. Soldiers, however, will not be involved in looking after the refugees and migrants once they are transferred to the camps. This task will be undertaken by nongovernmental organizations and volunteers put forward by municipalities.
“We are in an emergency situation,” said Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris. “We arrived at this decision so that we do not find ourselves having to deal with an out-of-control situation if people are returned from Idomeni or start disembarking at Thessaloniki port.”
Authorities in FYROM are only allowing refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to cross from Greece, leaving thousands of migrants from other countries in dire conditions at Idomeni, where locals are growing impatient at the government’s inability to get the situation under control.
Defense Minister Panos Kammenos had been skeptical about allowing military facilities to be used for refugees and migrants but it is believed he agreed to make the Thessaloniki camps available after it was agreed that military personnel would not be needed for providing services to the arrivals. The camps are located in a 30-kilometer radius around Thessaloniki.